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This is the final instalment of my series on Boris Johnson’s downfall.

Those who missed them can read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Also of interest are:

Developing news: how long can Boris last as PM? (July 5-6)

Boris stays as PM for now but stands down as Conservative leader: ‘When the herd moves, it moves’ (July 6-7)

This post discusses two groups of people who are still wild about Boris: British voters and the Ukrainians.

British voters

On June 11, 2022, one week after Boris survived a vote of confidence by his fellow Conservative MPs, The Observer — the Sunday edition of The Guardian — posted the results of a poll they commissioned.

The findings were surprising for a left-wing newspaper (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson makes a better prime minister than Keir Starmer would despite Partygate, the cost of living crisis and the confidence vote in Johnson held by his MPs, according to the latest Observer poll.

Granted, the results were close, but Boris managed to come out on top, with the Conservatives two points behind Labour:

The Opinium figures, which will raise further concerns within Labour over the party leader’s performance, shows that the prime minister has a two-point lead over his opponent. It also reveals that Starmer’s party holds a narrow two-point lead, compared with a three-point lead in the last poll a fortnight ago. Labour are on 36% of the vote, with the Tories up one point on 34%. The Lib Dems are on 13% with the Greens on 6% …

While 28% think Johnson would make the best prime minister, 26% opted for Starmer.

On June 13, the i paper‘s Hugo Gye posted a few pages from the book Moonshot, by Pfizer’s chairman Albert Bourla:

Two excerpts follow. These pertain to late 2020 and early 2021:

From my perspective, the UK was doing an exceptional job under tremendous pressure.

At that time, the UK was the only vaccinating so quickly that demand surpassed supply. As a result, we worked on a plan to meet the UK’s needs

Yet, in the UK, it was only the Conservatives and conservatives remembering Boris’s efforts during that time period:

On June 14, the Mail‘s Alex Brummer wrote a positive article about the British economy, explaining why things weren’t as bad as the media and pundits portray them:

So, yes, we face serious challenges. And yet I simply do not believe there is any justification for the gloom-laden interpretation by large sections of the broadcast media and fierce critics of Boris Johnson’s government.

These Cassandras peddle a diet of relentless financial woe as they carelessly claim that the nation is in recession or heading for one.

But closer inspection shows not only that things are nowhere near as bad as they claim, but that there are serious grounds for hope in certain sectors, too.

Brummer explored the possibilities of what could happen either way:

True, the UK economy lost momentum recently, shrinking by 0.3 pc in April.

But what no one has mentioned is that this was largely down to a statistical quirk, and respected City forecasters are still actually predicting a 3.2 pc expansion of the UK economy this year, followed by 0.9 pc in 2023.

The big danger is that the constant barrage from the doom merchants could begin to influence events and destroy the resilience of consumers and enterprise — resilience which is still delivering for this country.

What is more, with a change of tack in the Government’s approach, I believe the economy could be recharged.

Of course, the country will struggle if it is required to contend with inflation, rising interest rates and a mountainous tax burden all at the same time. If consumers and businesses are doubly squeezed by higher interest rates and higher taxes, household incomes will be devastated

Brummer disagreed with Rishi’s tax hikes:

The truth is that, with the nation close to full employment and the City of London and services — comprising more than 70 pc of national output — performing well, there was absolutely no need to urgently hike taxes, if at all.

Income tax, national insurance receipts, VAT and corporation tax receipts have all been flowing into the exchequer in record volumes. All that future rises will do is stymie spending and the willingness of companies to invest.

And the main reason for that fall in output of 0.3 pc in April? It is because the Government suddenly ended the NHS’s Test and Trace operations — which had grown into a formidable industry, employing tens of thousands of people — as the country emerged from the pandemic.

In fact, April saw activity in consumer services jump by 2.6 pc. In spite of the £100-a-tank of petrol, the £8-a-pint of best IPA and rocketing food prices, a recession — defined as two quarters of negative growth — is unlikely.

Brummer did support Rishi’s help to the neediest families:

Even if Rishi Sunak does not cut taxes, his £15 billion package of targeted support to help poorer households with the rising cost of living means incomes should now rise in the second and third quarter of the year. It is equal to nearly 2 pc of their earnings and will boost the country’s spending power.

There were more reasons not to believe the doom-mongers, who, as I write in early September, are getting shriller and shriller:

What the doom-mongers fail to tell you is that investment bankers Goldman Sachs recently pointed out that consumer services are ‘robust’ and Britain’s economy is 0.9 pc larger now than it was before the nation went into lockdown.

Economic activity in the crucial services sector, meanwhile, is 2.6 pc higher.

But it is not just the consumer activity — along with the £370 bn plus of pandemic savings in the current and savings accounts of households — propping up the economy.

New data just released shows that the drive towards the UK becoming a high-tech, high-value nation continues to make Britain prosper.

So far this year, the country has sucked in £12.4 bn of investment into the tech industry, the highest level of any country other than the United States.

And let no one blame Brexit:

As for the argument that Brexit has done for Britain, it is comprehensively rubbished by the City consultancy firm EY, which argues that, when it comes to financial services, ‘six years since the EU referendum, we can be confident that Brexit has not damaged the UK’s fundamental appeal’.

Since the financial and professional services are the biggest generator of income for HMRC, and the UK’s most successful export to the rest of the world, this should surely be a source of national pride rather than Remoaner carping.

Indeed, wherever you look, the excellence of Britain’s life sciences sector — as evidenced by the rapid development and distribution of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine during the pandemic — continues to shine

Ultimately, taxes do need to be cut:

But more needs to be done. And by that I mean Rishi Sunak must put an end to the tax hikes — or even reverse them

… he froze personal tax allowances until 2025-6, along with the thresholds for capital gains tax.

… this will provide additional revenues to the Government of about £20.5 bn a year.

Sunak also opted to raise corporation tax from 19 pc to a whopping 25 pc next year. And to help pay for the NHS and social care, every employee and employer in the country is now paying a 1.25 pc surcharge on national insurance.

Together, all these measures (before inclusion of the windfall tax on oil production) mean that Boris Johnson’s government is raising more tax from the British people and commerce than any UK government since the 1940s.

Such a position, given the precarious economic circumstances we face, is completely unsustainable. If the Johnson government wants to fight the next election with a healthy economy, taxes have to be cut with a decisive policy shift.

And if that happens, it could just be the magic pill for a Tory revival.

Meanwhile, Boris took a brief staycation in Cornwall while he helped campaign for the Conservative candidate in Neil ‘Tractor Porn’ Parish’s constituency for the by-election, which, unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats won.

The Mail reported on Boris’s schedule:

Boris Johnson has been pictured walking on a Cornish beach with his son Wilfred as he chose a staycation amid weeks of chaos at Britain’s airports for millions desperate for a post-pandemic foreign break.

The Prime Minister has been in the West Country campaigning as he tries to win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election for the Tories on June 23, but is squeezing in a short family holiday.

And after a flying visit to the Devon constituency he headed to Cornwall to launch his food strategy at the wheel of a tractor before relaxing on the award-winning Porthminster beach, St Ives.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, June 15, Lord Geidt quit as Boris’s ethical adviser, which made all of his opponents question whether he should still be in office. This came a day after Geidt had appeared before a parliamentary select committee. I saw parts of that session. Geidt did not exactly inspire me with confidence.

The Times reported:

Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, announced his resignation in a 21-word statement the day after MPs accused him of “whitewashing” Johnson’s conduct and questioned whether there was “really any point” to him.

Geidt, 60, came close to quitting last month after concluding that there were “legitimate” questions about whether the prime minister breached the ministerial code. He said that Johnson’s fine for breaking coronavirus rules threatened to undermine his role and risked leaving the ministerial code open to ridicule.

He also received a “humble and sincere” apology from Johnson in January after the prime minister withheld critical messages from Geidt’s inquiry into the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

A statement from Geidt published on the government website this evening said simply: “With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests.”

In a bruising encounter with the public administration and constitutional affairs select committee yesterday, Geidt admitted that he had been “frustrated” by the prime minister’s approach to the scandal.

William Wragg, the Conservative chairman of the committee, told The Times: “Lord Geidt is a person of great integrity, motivated by the highest ideals of public service. For the prime minister to lose one adviser on ministers’ interests may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.”

Then again, William Wragg is not a fan of Boris’s, prompting his supporters to think there was a stitch up, especially as Tony Blair had just been installed as a new member of the Order of the Garter.

Geidt’s letter seems to be focused on Boris’s fixed penalty notice for Partygate, but Boris’s response, published in The Guardian, is about steel tariffs:

https://image.vuukle.com/ec8968d1-827d-4c2c-be0c-d7788eecf909-246cc61d-a889-436e-a38d-8a75e6feb480

GB News’s Patrick Christys explained this before going into Tony Blair’s offences during his time as Prime Minister, including the Iraq War and letting IRA terrorists walk free. It’s a shame the video isn’t clearer, but the audio is compelling. After Christys introduced the subject, a panel debate took place:

Christys ran a poll asking if Boris is more unethical than Blair. Seventy per cent said No:

Blair’s former adviser John McTernan said that, unlike Boris, Blair had been cleared of a fixed penalty notice (for an irregularity in paying London’s congestion charge). But was Blair actually cleared? The BBC article from the time suggests that he wasn’t:

On June 24, after the Conservatives lost Neil Parish’s seat to the Lib Dems and the Wakefield seat to Labour, The Telegraph reported that the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden MP, resigned. He seemed to blame the loss on Boris, although mid-term by-election victories often go to an Opposition party, something Dowden should have known:

Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

Mr Dowden’s resignation came at 5.35am, shortly after the announcement of the two defeats. He had been scheduled to appear on the morning media round before he decided to step down.

In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield.

The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41 per cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

Guido Fawkes posted Boris’s generous letter of thanks to Dowden and his video explaining that mid-term by-election results often explain voters’ frustration with the direction of the Government:

As usual, Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell posted another inaccuracy, this time about Labour’s by-election results:

At the time, Boris was away in Kigali, Rwanda, for CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting). While there, he clarified sex and gender. The Times reported:

A woman cannot be born with a penis, Boris Johnson said last night, adding that there were “particular problems” around “issues of gender”, but he said it was important to be “as understanding of everybody else as possible”.

Asked whether a woman could be born with a penis, Johnson replied: “Not without being a man”.

This has been an ongoing controversy for the past year. Neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer have been willing to answer that question. Boris met that challenge.

By the time Boris resigned on Thursday, July 7, millions of voters thought it was a stitch up.

Dan Wootton expressed our thoughts magnificently in his editorial that evening on GB News:

Excerpts from his transcript follow:

They won, folks.

They got him in the end.

Let’s be honest for a moment, they were never going to stop until they’d secured Boris Johnson’s head.

Since December, the campaign by the political establishment, the Remoaner elite, the civil service blob and – crucially – the country’s biased broadcast media, notably BBC News, ITV News and Sly News, has been fever pitch.

Eventually, the Conservative Party decided it was impossible to govern while also fighting such dark and powerful forces.

These are deeply depressing times for British democracy.

Boris is the third Tory Prime Minister brought down in six years.

The febrile and hostile establishment and the MSM knows the power they have to bring political paralysis to the country.

And why were they so determined to destroy Boris?

Think about it.

He was a transformational Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister who stared them all down to finally deliver Brexit.

A Prime Minister who had vowed to cut the size of the civil service and demanded they return to their damned desks.

A Prime Minister who was going to scrap the hated BBC licence fee and sell the far-left Channel 4 News.

It’s not hard to see why they would stop at nothing to discredit him.

I mean, last night the BBC quoted a source saying Boris Johnson “is now like Putin”.

That’s how deranged and determined his critics have become.

The celebration that broke out across the airwaves today – especially on the Boris Bashing Corporation once known as the BBC – blew up any final suggestion that we have an impartial broadcast media here in Britain

I wanted to share with you part of a conversation I had earlier today with a source close to the Prime Minister.

They told me: “People had no interest in talking about the quite historic leadership achievements be that dragging us through a pandemic, a world leading vaccine programme rollout and a quite uniquely special performance in regards to that European war.”

“Those people who wanted him gone never wanted to acknowledge that at any point. Never ever. It was always just the Westminster personality stuff. That was the only focus.”

“Labour has had not one policy or grown-up policy discussion. It has been an out and out campaign to remove Boris. And you always have to ask yourself why. Why did they want to get rid of Boris so much? Why did sections of the media do that? Ultimately, wounded or not, he is the Conservative’s best chance of winning an election” …

As the Daily Mail said today: The truth is, Mr Johnson stands head and shoulders above almost all his assassins. Compared with the mountains he has scaled, their combined achievements are little more than molehills

To Boris Johnson, it was a project not completed, largely down to external forces.

But thank you for delivering us Brexit; that is an achievement for the ages that will go down in the history books.

It was a sad evening, indeed.

However, in time, there might be an upside. Maybe he could appear on GB News now and again:

Boris won that night’s Greatest Briton accolade:

Wootton’s focus on Brexit was confirmed by The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs the following day. She fears that Boris’s resignation will give a lift to prominent Remainers:

With the implosion of Boris Johnson, the Brexit war threatens to start anew. Tory Leavers must accept their vulnerability. The Prime Minister who ended the last battle by getting a Brexit deal done has just fallen in ignominious circumstances. Meanwhile, Remainers – who will never give up the fight – scent weakness.

While Andrew Adonis rallies against a “revolution which devours its children”, Michael Heseltine has declared that “if Boris goes, Brexit goes”. It might be tempting to dismiss all this as the hopeful rantings of bitter men. After all, Sir Keir Starmer has been at pains to reassure voters in recent days that Labour will not take Britain back into the European Union.

But even if the leader of the Opposition – a Remainer who voted six times against a Brexit deal – is genuine, he is powerless to stop the rejuvenation of the Remainer campaign. As support for Brexit in the polls has seeped away in recent months, in part because of the chaos that has gripped the Government, ultra-Remainers have been on manoeuvres. With the fall of Johnson, they think their time has almost come.

Over the next two years, they will likely proceed with a calculated mixture of boldness and caution. Already the public is being relentlessly bombarded with misinformation, which erroneously links every ill facing Britain with the decision to leave the EU. As the Tory party is distracted by internal dramas, negative Brexit sentiment will mount. This is already starting to happen, as critics in the business world become blunter in their criticisms – from the aviation industry to the CBI.

Meanwhile, some Tory MPs have been discreetly arguing in favour of a softer Brexit. Indeed, while the removal of the PM was by no means a Remainer plot, some of his internal enemies were motivated by a desire for greater alignment with EU rules – or at least by their opposition to what they consider to be an excessively aggressive attitude towards fixing the Northern Ireland protocol …

In truth, Conservative fealty to the Brexit cause has been disintegrating even under Boris Johnson, as the Blob has sapped the Government’s will

The great fear is that the Tory party now elects a closet Remainer who does not have the conviction to take all this on. That Brexit dies with a whimper, smothered by bureaucratic inertia and then finally strangled after the next election. If Brexiteers want to avoid this fate, they must think like war strategists once again. That means confronting the extent of their current weakness, and taking their opponents seriously.

Boris also shares that same worry and said so in Parliament on July 19, the day of his final Prime Minister’s Questions:

Right after Boris’s resignation, an online petition appeared: ‘Reinstate Boris Johnson as PM’. It currently has over 23,000 signatures making it one of the top signed petitions on Change.org.

On Saturday, July 9, the i paper had an interesting report with several interviews:

The atmosphere sounded surreal:

“It was a bit weird”, a source said of the Cabinet meeting Boris Johnson convened on Thursday just two hours after he said he would step down, effectively putting Britain on pause.

The Prime Minister was flanked by senior ministers, some of whom, less than 24 hours, had earlier led a delegation of men and women in grey suits to No 10 to urge him to quit

Bill committees examining legislation line-by-line had to be cancelled, or they had newly resigned ministers sitting on them as backbenchers, while the whips who lacked the required specialist knowledge of the issues at stake were leading for the Government …

Contenders to take over as PM, when Mr Johnson does go, have been preparing for a contest months as the writing has slowly been scrawled on the wall of No 10.

Tom Tugendhat, Penny Mordaunt, and Jeremy Hunt were the most active hopefuls this week, contacting MPs and arranging meetings …

As the leadership contenders jostled, the Whitehall blame game began over Mr Johnson’s spectacular fall from grace. The Prime Minister entirely overhauled his inner circle in February, after the initial “Partygate” allegations broke, and it is largely this team that will shepherd the Government through the final few months of his premiership …

The arrival of Guto Harri, one of Mr Johnson’s oldest allies, as director of communications is seen by many as a contributor to the Prime Minister’s downfall

The spin chief had a habit of making up policies off the cuff, prompting advisers in other departments to joke about “the Guto special” when confronted with unexpected announcements from No 10. One Whitehall official concluded: “He is good for journalists, I’m not sure he’s good for HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]”

But others pin the ultimate blame firmly at Mr Johnson’s door.

One of Mr Johnson’s closest former advisers told i that it “all went wrong for the PM” when he stopped listening to those from Vote Leave

One of the former ministers who quit said on Thursday simply: “Everything is his fault. I spent months defending, or at least being generous about, his mistakes.

“Not after the last 24 hours. Appalling.”

On July 12, Guido reported that Boris loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg thought that the Prime Minister’s name should be on the Conservative MPs’ ballot (emphases his):

… he affirmed it was “unjust” to deny the Prime Minister the opportunity to fight for his position amongst Tory members. This comes in the context of his previous arguments for the growing presence of personal mandates in British political leaders. Unfortunately, Guido doesn’t believe this strategy is quite in line with the contest rules…

I think this gave Boris’s supporters false hopes:

People in Conservative constituencies began emailing their MPs:

With no result, the question then turned to whether Boris’s name should be on the ballot for Conservative Party members.

On Saturday, July 16, The Times‘s Gabriel Pogrund and Harry Yorke posted an article: ‘How the Tories turned the heat on Rishi Sunak’. In it, they introduced Lord Cruddas, who would go on to campaign for Boris’s name to be on the members’ ballot:

Both men were Eurosceptics who had supported the Vote Leave campaign when it might have been politically advantageous not to do so. Both were the beneficiaries of Boris Johnson’s patronage. Cruddas had been given a peerage despite official objections. Sunak had been plucked from obscurity the previous year and made one of the youngest chancellors in history.

In 2021:

Sunak was the most popular politician in Britain and second only to Liz Truss in Conservative Home members’ polls, having overseen the furlough and Eat Out to Help Out schemes. In the chamber, Cruddas gave his own vote of confidence, saying Sunak’s budget “had established a clear path for the country to move from these difficult times”, praising his “thoughtful” approach and arguing it would “not just to reinvigorate the economy post Covid but to help propel the post-Brexit opportunities”.

By July 2022, everything had changed:

A week into the most toxic Tory leadership election in memory, the fact such comments were made feels inconceivable. Cruddas, 68, who remains close to Johnson, has shared posts on social media describing Sunak as a “rat”, “a snake”, a “little weasel”, a “backstabber”, “a slimy snake”, a “treacherous snake”, “Fishy Rishi”, “Hissy Rishi”, “Judas”, “the traitor”, “the Remainer’s choice”, a “sly assassin”, a “Tory wet” promoting high taxes and the leader of a “coup” who “must be removed at all costs”. Cruddas also retweeted claims about the financial affairs of Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty.

Tonight the peer said there had indeed been a “coup”, adding: “I planned to donate a total of £500,000 this year but that is on hold and will not be paid unless the membership have a chance to vote on Boris being PM. I have no interest in Rishi who I deem to be not fit for high office due to his plotting and the orchestrated way he and others resigned to remove the PM.” He also accused Sunak, 42, of setting up his leadership “before Christmas” and choreographing his resignation to inflict maximum damage.

The problem for Sunak is that such sentiment — especially the notion that he behaved improperly and cannot be trusted on the economy — is not confined to a fringe on social media. He might be the frontrunner but “Anyone But Rishi” reflects the opinion of Johnson and a coalition within the party. This includes cabinet ministers, staff inside Downing Street and Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ), Johnson’s biggest donors, MPs opposed to higher taxes, and rivals for the leadership.

On July 22, The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope added support for Boris’s return and, in the meantime, addition to the ballot:

Tim Montgomerie, a former aide to Mr Johnson who has since been critical of him, said he had been told by sources close to the Prime Minister that he was convinced he would be back.

In a well-sourced post on social media, Mr Montgomerie wrote: “Boris is telling aides that he’ll be PM again within a year” …

It comes as a row broke out among senior Conservatives about a campaign among party members to allow them a vote on whether Mr Johnson should continue as Prime Minister.

By Friday night, 7,600 members – all of whom have given their membership numbers – had signed a petition calling for the vote.

Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the former party treasurer who organised the petition, said “several MPs” had started to “make noises” about supporting his campaign

Conservative MPs panicked:

The next day, The Times stirred the pot even more with ‘Is Boris Johnson really planning another run at No 10?’

On Wednesday afternoon, moments after Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were announced as the final two Conservative Party leadership contenders, a group of “red wall” MPs met on the House of Commons terrace to reflect on the result. “Is it too late to withdraw my resignation letter?” mused an MP, who held a junior ministerial role until the coup against Boris Johnson. “Shouldn’t we just bring back Boris?” she said, leaving the question to hang in the air …

… Much like the Roman republic after Caesar’s assassination, Whitehall is now riven by internecine warfare and a government paralysed by indecision …

For a man who just 18 days ago was brutally ousted from the job he has coveted his entire political life, Johnson appears to be living out his final days in Downing Street in a cheerful mood. Freed from the never-ending cycle of Westminster scandals, Johnson is relaxed and has spent the past few days hosting friends, relatives and other allies at Chequers and preparing a number of set-piece events leading up to his departure from No 10 in September …

Johnson, who allies claim remains furious with Sunak for his part in the coup, has sought to distract himself from the race to select his successor through media-friendly stunts …

Several MPs who helped oust Johnson have received a backlash from their constituents, stoking fears that they may face the same electoral retribution inflicted on Conservative MPs who ousted Margaret Thatcher. Backbenchers in red wall seats have been inundated with emails from voters who are furious at their role in ousting the prime minister.

They added that their postbag was filled with messages from newly converted Tory voters who have warned they will not vote for the party again now Johnson is gone. A colleague of Gary Sambrook, MP for Birmingham Northfield, claimed he had received hundreds of emails from constituents since he stood up in the Commons earlier this month and accused Johnson of refusing to accept responsibility for his mistakes …

Johnson leaves, aides say, with the air of someone with unfinished business. Whether this is the end of the Johnsonian project, or a precursor to his own Hollywood-esque sequel, remains to be seen.

On July 25, Christopher Hope wrote that the Boris petition had garnered 10,000 signatures:

Insiders say he is obsessed with delivering for the 14 million voters who voted Conservative in 2019, many for the first time because of him.

There are already stirrings of a revolt among the members. By Saturday night, 10,000 Conservative members had signed a petition organised by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, former Party treasurer, and David Campbell-Bannerman, former Tory MEP, demanding a say over his future.

The members want a second ballot to confirm MPs’ decision to force his resignation, to run concurrently with the official leadership ballot between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

That evening, Dan Wootton stated his belief that Boris’s name should be on the members’ ballot:

He asked his panel, which included Boris’s father Stanley about it:

You can see relevant portions in these shorter extracts: Stanley supporting his son, Stanley verbally sparring with a journalist for the i paper as well as the opinion of former Boris adviser, Tim Montgomerie.

In the end, nothing happened. There was no Boris ballot.

Early this week, I heard one of the campaigners tell GB News that CCHQ are asking the organisers to do a sanity check on the signatories, confirming their Party membership number and clearing out any duplicates. If the number is still sizeable, CCHQ will discuss a possible changing of the rules for any future contests.

This is good news, in a way, but it will not help the Conservatives in the next general election. Boris’s supporters are still angry.

Ukrainians

The Ukrainians will miss their biggest supporter.

They were saddened by his resignation:

Boris offered them his reassurance:

Volodymyr Zelenskyy even made a special announcement to the Ukrainian people about it:

Guido Fawkes wrote:

After leaving office Guido suspects Boris may end up reflecting more proudly on his work supporting Ukraine than even his Brexit legacy. Since the announcement of his resignation, Ukrainians have come out en masse to voice their sadness about his impending departure … Taking to Telegram late last night, Zelenksyy posted a touching video saying “Today, the main topic in our country has become the British topic – Boris Johnson’s decision to resign as party leader and Prime Minister”

Boris’s hair has become a bit of an icon there (just as Trump’s had in the United States). Guido has the images:

Boris’s popularity among Ukrainians has already been well-reported since the outbreak of war. Streets have been named after him, as have cakes in a Kyiv patisserie. Yesterday Ukraine’s national railways redesigned their logo to include an unmistakable mop of blonde hair, as did major supermarket Сільпо…

Boris once joked that the reason he’d left journalism for politics was because “no one puts up statues to journalists”. It seems that, thanks to his efforts in Ukraine, he did manage achieved his wish for public deification – just not in the country in which he was elected…

On July 8, Ukraine’s youngest MP made a video praising Boris:

Boris Johnson took a clear stand when so many others looked the other way.

In August, someone was inspired to paint a mural of Boris:

On August 24, Boris made his farewell — and surprise — visit to Ukraine on the nation’s Independence Day:

Guido wrote:

Boris has made yet another surprise visit to Ukraine on its independence day — and the sixth month anniversary of its invasion. He used the visit, his last as PM, to announce a £54 million aid package to the country of 2000 state-of-the-art drones and loitering munitions …

Slava Ukraini…

Guido also posted this video:

GB News had more on the story:

Mr Johnson’s visit came as Ukraine marked 31 years since its independence from Moscow’s rule.

And it also came six months on from Russia’s invasion of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s nation …

He said in Kyiv today: “What happens in Ukraine matters to us all.

“That is why I am in Kyiv today. That is why the UK will continue to stand with our Ukrainian friends. I believe Ukraine can and will win this war” …

The Prime Minister used his meeting with Mr Zelenskyy to set out a further package of military aid, including 2,000 drones and loitering munitions.

He also received the Order of Liberty, the highest award that can be bestowed on foreign nationals, for the UK’s support for Ukraine.

Mr Johnson said: “For the past six months, the United Kingdom has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine, supporting this sovereign country to defend itself from this barbaric and illegal invader.

“Today’s package of support will give the brave and resilient Ukrainian armed forces another boost in capability, allowing them to continue to push back Russian forces and fight for their freedom.”

The package includes 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones – smaller than a mobile phone – which can be used to provide live feeds and still images to troops, particularly important in urban warfare.

The support also includes larger drones and loitering weapons, which can be used to target Russian vehicles and installations.

The UK is also preparing to give mine-hunting vehicles to operate off the coast, with Ukrainian personnel being trained in their use in UK waters in the coming weeks.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko marked the occasion by urging UK citizens to be “patient” as the war-torn country “cannot afford to lose your support”.

He said: “You are playing a very important part in this fight. Ukraine will do what it takes to claim victory.”

But will Britons continue to love Ukraine as much when the winter and higher fuel bills kick in?

Boris told us that we must do it, we must suffer, for Ukraine:

He has a point, but I do wonder how well this will play by the end of the year.

At least Boris got his Churchillian international claim to fame.

What next?

This week, Boris made a farewell tour of the UK, topped off with a dawn police raid of a house:

Guido has the video and explains the greeting:

This morning Boris accompanied the police on a home raid. Given we’re now comfortably into the 21st century, it didn’t take long for one of the occupants to realise the PM was in his home and film the experience, asking Boris ‘wagwan‘. Boris politely asked the filming resident “how you doing?”. The Snapchatter could have at least offered Boris a cuppa…

It’s rumoured that Michael Gove might be off to edit a newspaper:

Guido has the story and the audio of Gove’s plans:

This morning Michael Gove laughed off the suggestion he’s planning an imminent return to Fleet Street, insisting on the Today Programme he’s “definitely planning to stay in Parliament” and won’t be stepping down any time soon. Rumours have been building in SW1 that Gove had his eye on the editorship of, erm, one particular Murdoch-owned broadsheet, should a vacancy become available …

No, no. I think my first responsibility and duty is to my constituents in Surrey Heath. I’m going to stay on as MP, argue for them, and also argue for some of the causes in which I believe. I think it’s vitally important that we continue to make the case for levelling up. I think Boris Johnson is absolutely right to focus on the need to provide additional support for overlooked and undervalued communities…

Gove added he still has “a reservoir” of affection for Boris despite being the only Minister the PM actually sacked in July. Boris is also rumoured to be sticking around until the next election. Could make for awkward small talk on the backbenches.

I predict they will stay on as MPs until the next election, just show up less often in the Commons.

As for Rishi, The Guardian said on Friday, September 2, that he was being compared with Michael Heseltine, one of the MPs who brought down Margaret Thatcher:

One of the most familiar refrains of the Conservative leadership contest was candidates earnestly inviting comparisons to Margaret Thatcher.

But after his resignation as chancellor brought down Boris Johnson’s wobbling house of cards, a Tory insider said Rishi Sunak found himself with “the curse of Heseltine hanging round his neck”.

Despite long having been talked of as a likely future prime minister, Sunak struggled to shed the parallel with the man who helped bring down Thatcher but failed in his own tilt at the top job – before coining the famous political cliche: “He who wields the knife never wears the crown.”

I’ll leave the final word to The Spectator‘s political editor James Forsyth, who muses on what politics will look like after Boris leaves:

His absence will reshape the political landscape because his presence defined it.

We will find out who Boris’s successor is on Monday. The Guardian has a report on what we should expect:

The candidate who receives the most votes will be revealed on Monday by Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, a gathering of Conservative backbench MPs (not named after the average year of birth of its members but the year in which it was founded) …

The formal handover will take place on Tuesday. The Queen is recovering from the outgoing prime minister’s tenure in her Scottish pile Balmoral and will appoint the new PM there, which will be a challenge as it requires the winner to leave Westminster.

Johnson is expected to make a farewell address outside 10 Downing Street at about 9am on Tuesday. It is not known whether he has written two versions of the speech, one based on staying, one based on leaving.

More next week as a new chapter in Conservative politics begins.

End of series

It is apposite to follow my posts about Lee Anderson with a series on his fellow Red Wall MP Marco Longhi.

Among other things, they have in common a dislike of Steve Bray, the noisy anti-Brexit protester who had his amplifying equipment taken by police this week.

Steve Bray

This is where I left off yesterday:

I’ll get to the debate in which Marco Longhi said those words.

First, however, Steve Bray reappeared in the area around Parliament on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, with a new boombox:

Guido Fawkes had the story and a video:

His post says (emphases in the original):

Just when you thought it was all over, Steve Bray’s back for an encore. With his boombox ripped from his hands yesterday by a swarm of Met officers, it looked like it was finally time to say bye, bye Bray-by. Not so much.

Undeterred, and as promised during a BBC interview yesterday afternoon, Bray is back on his island outside Parliament, having found a new boombox to blast his tunes at full volume as MPs walk past. He’s also picked up a gang of new supporters to chant along with him. Presumably they don’t have jobs to go to either. Chopper [The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope] even claims he’s seen pedestrians hand Bray some cash in solidarity. It’s not like Met officers have far to commute given New Scotland Yard’s just metres away…

On May 11, Marco Longhi mentioned Steve Bray, although not by name, in a parliamentary debate, Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice.

Guido covered the bit about Bray:

Guido wrote:

… Speaking in the Chamber yesterday afternoon alongside Bray’s arch nemesis Lee Anderson, Longhi said:

I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever… This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met really should deal with him.

Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle intervened to offer swapping offices with Longhi so that “there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either”…

Guido concluded by saying that, like Lloyd Russell-Moyle, he has no problem with Bray’s braying as it shows we tolerate free speech.

Personally, I disagree. After six years of his daily noise, the Met should put a stop to it.

Returning to the debate, which took place after the Queen’s Speech in May, Longhi discussed the people from his constituency, Dudley North, and their concerns, among them Brexit and re-establishing law and order (emphases mine):

I was going to confine my speech to the Public Order Bill, but I will follow up on a few comments that the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) made. The more I listen to him, the more I think he speaks a good deal of common sense. I would like him to know that I for one, and a number of my colleagues, agree with much if not everything of what he says, and we have a steely resolve to make sure that we are one United Kingdom. That is what we voted for when we voted for Brexit.

My daughters, for some unfathomable reason, sometimes describe me as a grumpy old man. I really do not know why. However, there are a few things that can make me a little bit miserable, and one thing that has really grated on me in recent years is the minority of protesters who have pretty much used guerrilla warfare to disrupt the everyday lives of the vast majority of our constituents—not just mine, but everybody’s.

The good people of Dudley North are ordinary folk, working hard to make a living, a living that is increasingly harder to make in the current climate. I cannot fathom how the privileged and entitled few think it is acceptable to stop our carers and nurses from being able to get to work to care for our sick and elderly, or to blockade a fire appliance from getting to a serious fire burning a local business to the ground—or, more tragically, perhaps preventing people inside the burning building from being saved. Of course, that applies to any blue light service, not just the fire service. That minority of criminals truly disgust me. They have no concept of the real world out there. They have no concept of the misery they bring to those less fortunate than themselves.

I hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and those on the Front Benches will join me in making working here more bearable for our staff, myself and my colleagues. I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever.

Lee Anderson intervened:

I know the character my hon. Friend alludes to, and I have witnessed some ferocious verbal attacks on my hon. Friend from that character, who patrols Whitehall like a public nuisance. May I suggest telling him that, if he is interested in changing things in this country, he should come to Dudley North and stand against my hon. Friend at the next general election?

Longhi replied:

In fact, that invitation has already been made. I am going to print off a set of nomination papers, but I wonder about the 10 people this person might need for the form to be valid.

My staff cannot hear distressed constituents on the phone through the awful racket he causes. All our staff who have offices in 1 Parliament Street suffer considerable stress and anxiety from the disruption he causes to their, and our, work. I doubt that staff in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the buildings opposite, would say anything different—[Interruption.] Is someone wanting to intervene? I do not know. I heard some noises. It is like a Hoover—an irritating thing in the background. I do not know what it is.

This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met Police really should deal with him. He is causing misery to hundreds of staff, he is intimidating many

Then Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is quite the leftie, intervened for a bit of to-ing and fro-ing:

Russell-Moyle: No, he’s not!

Longhi: I think someone wants to intervene, Mr Deputy Speaker. This person intimidates many who are passing by, going about our business and representing our constituents—

Russell-Moyle: No, he doesn’t!

Longhi: Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene?

Russell-Moyle: The hon. Member clearly does not know how Parliament works, but we often make sounds across the Chamber when we disagree with someone, and I disagree with him. I am happy to swap offices: I will take his office and he can have my office. Then there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either. Win-win!

Longhi: I am actually very comfortable for the hon. Member to come to Dudley North and make those very arguments, because he would be out of office completely. Please do come and make those very arguments. I am not going to allow this kind of behaviour from someone outside, who is a public nuisance, to force us to have to make changes for him.

Our police, whether in Dudley, the Met or elsewhere, need the tools to better manage and tackle the dangerous and highly disruptive tactics used by a small minority of selfish protesters to wreak havoc on people going about their daily lives. Our police already have enough to be doing without the unnecessary burden of a privileged few who seek to rinse taxpayers’ money.

It will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support the Public Order Bill. If that disruptive minority want to glue themselves to anything, maybe the Bill should make it easier for them to have their backsides glued to a tiny cell at Her Majesty’s pleasure. They would be most welcome.

Kit Malthouse MP, the minister for Crime and Policing, concluded the debate. Malthouse, incidentally, worked for Boris Johnson in a similar position when the latter was Mayor of London:

… We have had a variety of contributions this afternoon, falling broadly into three categories. First, there were the constructive contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) talked about antisocial behaviour in his constituency, a theme we heard from several hon. Members. The three graces—my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi)—expressed strong support for the Public Order Bill. The general theme was expressed pithily by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough:

“We want criminals to be scared of the law. We do not want the law-abiding majority to be scared of criminals”—

a sentiment with which the Government heartily agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) made his usual vigorous and wide-ranging contribution, illustrating neatly why his part of the world is becoming more of a Conservative stronghold with every month that passes

I wrote about Jonathan Gullis in April.

Malthouse ended with this. I do hope he is correct when he says:

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out earlier in this debate, the first job of any Government is to keep their people safe, which is why we are delivering ambitious reforms to do just that by cutting crime, delivering swifter justice and making our streets safer. We are backing the ever-growing numbers of police with the tools and support they need, making sentences tougher for violent and sexual crimes, strengthening victims’ rights and restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. We will ensure that we strike the right balance in our human rights framework so that it meets the needs of the public and commands their confidence, strengthens our traditions of liberty, particularly the right to free speech, adds a healthy dose of common sense and curtails abuses of our justice system. I commend the Government’s programme on crime and justice to the House.

In the beginning

Marco Longhi was born in the Midlands town of Walsall, Staffordshire, on April 22, 1967, to an Englishwoman and an Italian airline worker. He grew up in Rome.

He took after both parents in his personal choices.

Following his father’s interest in airlines, he trained as a pilot. Later, following the example from his mother’s family, he entered politics.

In between, he studied at Manchester University and worked in the oil and gas industry. Later on, he became interested in real estate and was the director of the lettings (rental) firm Justmove. He also owns ten houses in Walsall.

His grandfather Wilfred Clarke was mayor of Walsall in 1978. Longhi became a Conservative councillor for the town in 1999 and served two terms as its mayor, in 2017 and 2018.

Dudley North

Longhi ran successfully for election to Parliament in 2019, after the much-admired Labour MP, subsequently Independent, Ian Austin, stood down for Dudley North.

The constituency of Dudley North was created in 1997. Labour’s Ross Cranston served as its MP between 1997 and 2005. Afterwards, Ian Austin succeeded him until 2019. Austin became an Independent in February 2019. He resigned from Labour because he was troubled by its anti-Semitism, which prevailed in some factions of the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Austin’s adoptive father Fred was a Czech Jew who was adopted by an English family, hence the surname change from Stiller to Austin. Fred Austin was the headmaster of The Dudley School from its foundation in 1975 to his retirement in 1985.

In December 2019, Marco Longhi handily defeated Labour’s appropriately named Melanie Dudley with a majority of 11,533, a swing of 15.8 per cent.

Maiden speech

Longhi gave his maiden speech to the Commons on February 26, 2020, during the debate on the Environment Bill.

Although coronavirus was seeping into the news narrative, getting on with Brexit was still the main topic of discussion among Conservative MPs. The debates were marvellous, imbued with optimism.

Everyone was also happy with the relatively new Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor John Bercow who did so much to try and thwart Brexit.

Longhi’s speech tells us about Dudley and his hopes for the historic town:

Let me start by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to present my maiden speech today, and to thank your staff—and, indeed, all staff on the estate—for keeping us safe and looking after us so well and with such professionalism. I should like you to convey my more profound thanks, if that is possible, to Mr Speaker for the way in which he has signalled that he will carry out his office as Speaker of the House, in complete contrast to his predecessor. The conventions and integrity that he is restoring in such an unassuming way are having a much greater impact in restoring faith in our democracy than any commentators may be giving him credit for, which is why I want to do so today.

It is the convention to comment on one’s predecessor in a maiden speech. I shall do so, but not for that reason: I will because I want to. I am certain than many in this place will want to recognise Ian Austin for his integrity, and for the brave way in which he decided to stand up against antisemitism. There is not a person in my constituency to whom I have spoken who does not speak well of Ian, even when they disagreed with his politics. So I want to thank him for his efforts as a local MP, and for the example that he has set for many of us, on both sides of the House, in standing up to prejudice and hatred. I suspect that some of my colleagues on this side of the House—myself included—may wish to thank him for other reasons too.

I say with a degree of both pride and humility that I am the first ever Conservative Member of Parliament for Dudley North, the first ever Member called Marco, and the Member holding a larger majority than any of my predecessors in this seat. For that, I thank the people of Dudley, who, like the people in the rest of the country, decided to tell the House—yet again, at the umpteenth time of asking—what they wanted us to do.

The Dudley North constituency is made up of the town of Sedgley, the suburban areas of Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Gornal Wood, Woodsetton, and other conurbations around Dudley town itself. It has several attractions of national significance, including the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Castle and Dudley Zoo.

Dudley has been a market town since the 13th century, and its fortunes over the centuries have ebbed and flowed with the economic cycles of the heavy industry that its coal-rich mines supported. This also means that it has suffered much since the decline of the traditional industries, which is why a focus on skills and future jobs is crucial if the economic prosperity of the area and the wellbeing of Dudley people are to be secured for the coming decades.

Dudley is also credited with being the birthplace of the industrial revolution, with the advent of smelting iron ore using coal instead of charcoal, which is manufactured by burning trees and therefore much rarer and more costly to obtain. Abraham Darby introduced this revolutionary method, which meant that iron and steel could be made in much larger quantities and more efficiently and cheaply. He effectively kick-started the industrial revolution, so Dudley’s heritage and legacy are second to none—notwithstanding what other people in this House might say! However, I will say that competing with Magna Carta and perhaps alienating a doctor might not be my smartest move. Abraham Darby was born in Woodsetton in 1678 and is reported to have lived at Wren’s Nest, which is now a site of special scientific interest—I had to practise that—and, since 1956, one of only two national nature reserves assigned on geology alone because of the variety and abundance of fossils found on the site.

However, although the new industrial revolution brought wealth, it also resulted in the area being named the most unhealthy place in the country in the mid-19th century, because of the dreadful working and living conditions. That led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewerage systems. Dudley had the highest mortality rate in the country. In the 21st century we are faced with the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by a range of new advancements in the digital and biological worlds, but with a different impact on human wellbeing.

Improving health and wellbeing and seeking to tackle mental ill health are some of the areas on which I wish to focus during my time in this House, for the benefit of everyone at home and in their workplaces. If we tackle the issue of poor mental health at its core and in its infancy, we can prevent crisis moments and the devastating consequences that they can have. That it is also why having an environment that we can all enjoy, which supports us in our own wellbeing and that we can leave as a positive legacy to our children and grandchildren, is so important. Mother Nature has been talking to us for some time, and it is time we did more than simply listen. It is time to take action as well, which is why the Bill is so welcome.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you ever come to Dudley, the capital of the Black Country, you will be warmly welcomed, because that is the nature of Dudley people. You will also feel a sense of expectation—a feeling that change is about to happen, a feeling of optimism—and this is another reason why I am so privileged to represent the town and its people. In the near future, we will be seeing the demolition of the infamous Cavendish House in the town centre to make way for many new homes, the metro extension and I hope—subject to consent—a very light rail system.

Like many high streets around the country, Dudley’s has suffered much. Nobody has a silver bullet to fix that, but increasing footfall by attracting more people feels like part of the solution. If attracting more people into the town centre is part of the solution, and if the focus on skills for future jobs is key, I would like to see our plans for a university campus on the edge of Dudley town centre finally being delivered. I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees with me on that. These game-changing plans were drawn up before my arrival, and some have been spoken about for many years. Now is the time to turn words into action and to deliver for Dudley. My pledge to all Dudley people is that I will fight every step of the way to make things happen and bring about the change that they want. It is Dudley’s turn now.

On May 12, 2021, he rightly objected to lefties trolling him over Brexit in the Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work debate, which followed that year’s Queen’s Speech:

“Your name isn’t English, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” That is a recent Facebook comment from an articulate but clearly limited left-wing activist, so I took some pleasure in replying in Italian “Che in realtà sono nato da un minatore di carbone del black country”—that I was in fact born to a Black Country coalminer.

More condescending left-wingers recently said this:

“You’d think Marco would understand why Brexit is bad. He’s lived in Italy and EVEN his Dad is Italian. Why is he such a strong Brexiteer? He must be stupid.”

Well, brownie points for working out that my dad is Italian. I did explain at length why Brexit is vital, but it became clear to me that there was a limit to their thinking, too—I mean Marco, Italian, therefore remainer, otherwise stupid is a bit of a “micro-aggression”, and is rather limited thinking isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Here is my suggestion for the Labour party: set up an internal limited-thinking focus group to eradicate it from among their ranks, because how can they represent people who are clearly not limited? They may want to start in Amber Valley where the Labour leader blamed voters for their election results; it might prove more useful than rearranging the deckchairs on their Front Bench.

So, yes, my name is Marco, and, yes, my father is Italian, but here I am. How did I get here? Two words: opportunità e lavoro—opportunity and graft. My grandfather’s story is one of rags to riches and my parents are examples of blue-collar workers who for years lived hand to mouth. They bent over backwards to give me opportunities, and I put in the work.

Opportunity and work are two pillars of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech. People out there do not want handouts; they want a hand getting back on their feet. More than anything, they want opportunities to do well. The lifetime skills guarantee is a massive investment in education and apprenticeships, readying people for the jobs coming their way. We may remember the Prime Minister—or “our Boris” as they say back home—visiting Dudley and going to the site of our new Institute of Technology, where he delivered his “jobs, jobs, jobs” vision. The pandemic has shown that fish can be necessary, but fishing rods are what people really need, and that institute will provide the rods.

The Queen’s Speech contained a vast array of steps that will take us out of the clutches of the pandemic, freeing us to be even stronger than when we entered it. The commitment to our NHS and continuing with our investment in the vaccination programme and in private sector life sciences are huge bonuses that this country will benefit from.

The roaring ’20s are upon us. Dio salvi la Regina—God save the Queen.

I hope he is right about the roaring ’20s being upon us.

One year on, and it’s hard to see. However, that is no fault of Marco Longhi’s.

I will have more on this gently witty and highly incisive Red Wall MP next week.

In the autumn of 2021, a weeks-long protest by Insulate Britain, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, took place on Greater London’s roads.

A bemused nation looked on as police a) did nothing, b) asked protesters if they needed anything and c) focused on members of the public who tried to remove human obstructions.

This was the scene on September 15:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

The idiotic M25 Extinction Rebellion protestors are back this morning, once again bringing cars to a standstill, pumping out their fumes in an environmentally-friendly traffic jam. Pathetically, a solitary policeman is there and has been filmed asking them to kindly move on. In the most surprising news of the week, they didn’t listen to him…

The next day, another sit-in took place on the M25 near the South Mimms services in Hertfordshire, just north of London.

Motorists took the law into their own hands. The police reacted quickly — against them, not the protesters:

And, yes, blocking a road, even part of it, is against the law:

On October 13, motorists continued to do battle with protesters, because the police certainly weren’t. This took place in southeast London at the Dartford Crossing, going into Kent:

Guido wrote:

Insulate Britain has once again clashed with fed-up commuters this morning after blocking a road near the Dartford Crossing. The 40-something eco-activists prompting drivers to rip posters from the protestors and drag the insolent mob out the road. In other scenes, a lorry driver was filmed coming within inches of running a couple of them over.

On October 25, a man named Matthew, who was clearly old enough to know better, glued his head to an unspecified road. He expressed concern for his face:

Guido had more on the story:

The activist explained from his roadside position that he decided to glue his head to the road because the government is not treating the climate crisis as an “emergency”, despite Insulate Britain admitting it was when they announced a pause in their campaigning a fortnight ag. When asked whether he’d “snipped himself” by the Mirror, a grimacing-in-pain Matthew said “…you’ll find out if there’s blood coming out.” Someone clearly wasn’t thinking with their head when they made this decision…

Interestingly, on the Continent, the police have no problem stepping in and restoring order.

On January 24, 2022, Extinction Rebellion Deutschland found that German police weren’t nearly as kind and accommodating as their British counterparts:

Guido had the story:

German police demonstrated a no-nonsense approach to dealing with climate road-blockers this morning – the kind that’s sorely lacking here in the UK. Dozens of protestors from “Aufstand der letzten generation” – which translates to “Last Generation Uprising”, a branch of Extinction Rebellion Deutschland – blocked motorway exits in Berlin and demanded a new anti-food waste law, including the implementation of measures for a sustainable agricultural turnaround by 2030″. Police quickly hauled them all off the road to inevitable accusations of police violence (“Polizeigewalt”). If only Germany were as willing to stand up to Putin with the same verve they do with eco-loons…

And, on Monday, June 27, French police didn’t hesitate in ripping protesters’ hands from tarmac in Paris. Don’t worry. There’s no blood, just pain:

The long-haired chap wailed. The young policeman told him, ‘It’s nothing. Stop making a drama out of it’ (‘Il n’y a rien. Ce n’est pas de cinéma’).

Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to glue one’s face to the road in France.

Why can’t our police act with authority, the way they do with law-abiding citizens who want to get to work or drive their children to school?

The Extinction Rebellion protests stopped months ago in the UK, but our police need to get tougher with those who actively break the law by sitting in or gluing themselves to roads.

My series on Red Wall MP Lee Anderson from Ashfield continues.

Those who missed the previous three instalments of his profile can read them here, here and here.

Lee Anderson nearly always has something useful to contribute to debates in the House of Commons.

He is also no stranger to controversy, either.

Ian Lavery MP

He has a particular dislike for Labour MP Ian Lavery, who used to head the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), of which Anderson was once a member.

In Part 1, I introduced Anderson’s animosity towards Lavery, which has to do with £165,000 that the Labour MP received years ago from the NUM. Anderson, like other NUM members, believes that Lavery should return the money to the miners.

On Wednesday, June 15, Anderson raised the matter of the money again during the debate about the upcoming nationwide rail strike.

Guido Fawkes has the story and the video:

It was Guido’s most read and shared story of June 16:

Guido wrote (emphases in the original):

Another vintage Commons clash last night between Lee Anderson and Ian Lavery, with Anderson once again accusing Lavery of “stealing money” from the miners, and Lavery getting so upset he actually asked Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans to “protect” him from Anderson. Not a demand Evans took to kindly…

Anderson: Does he think that any Opposition Member who has received a donation from the RMT should put that money in a pot to help people who suffer during next week’s rail strike? Does he also think that other MPs who have stolen money from the mineworkers—165 grand in the case of the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) —should pay it back?

After eventually convincing Anderson to withdraw the remark, Evans turned his attention to Lavery:

Lavery: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have been in the Chair three times when the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) has made allegations. He withdraws his ridiculous remark and consistently comes back to say it again. As Deputy Speaker, you are not protecting the likes of myself. I need your protection.

Evans: Order. Do not make allegations against the Chair, ever. You saw how I treated Mr Anderson. You just leave it with me—I don’t need lectures on how to do my job.

All this happening in the mother of all parliaments, rather than the school playground. At least it was entertaining…

Earlier this year, in the February 8 debate, Cost of Living and Food Insecurity, Anderson tried unsuccessfully to intervene in Lavery’s contribution. One wonders if he was going to ask about Lavery’s NUM money:

Lavery: I want to put some human context into this debate. I saw on social media this weekend a comment by a single parent. She said:

“It’s difficult to imagine without experiencing it is how tiring being skint is. How you’re so utterly consumed by financial hardship that it affects every decision you make on a daily basis. It takes up every thought and you can’t escape. No wonder there is a mental health crisis”.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: That comes from a single parent and it sets the tone for this debate. The country is badly fractured and, sadly, broken. Kids cannot eat and pensioners cannot eat, yet sales of luxury yachts have gone through the roof.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: And then we look at the other end of the political spectrum, where we see 14 million people in this country, the sixth richest economy on this planet, living in poverty.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: UK wages are at the lowest they have been and they are a 15-year standstill. Wages are gone and energy bills are going through the roof—I will come on to that. Poverty is a political choice. Hunger is a political choice. I am sick and tired of debates in this place where people from all parts are basically reducing hungry and cold families and individuals to mere balance sheet statistics—count them as human beings. The debate often gets dragged into whether this is absolute poverty or relative poverty.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: That does not matter to people who are suffering greatly in our communities. If they are sitting at the table with nothing to eat in the morning or at teatime at night, they are not aware of whether they are in abject poverty, absolute poverty, relative poverty or overall poverty. They might not even know that they are in poverty, but they know they are hungry. I think we will all probably have experienced being behind the person in the local newsagent who has the key to put £5 on their electricity bill—

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Then things kicked off:

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans: Order. I do not believe Mr Lavery is going to give way, so please save your voice for the rest of the speech. [Interruption.]

Order. What did the Member say?

Other MPs: He said, “Coward.”

Deputy Speaker: Please withdraw that word.

Anderson: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that the hon. Member is not a coward.

Deputy Speaker: Thank you.

Lavery: Mr Deputy Speaker, that has taken out a minute and a half of my time, but thank you very much for allowing me to continue. I am far from a coward, by the way …

Lavery finished his speech. Later in the debate, however, he raised a point of order about Anderson (emphases mine):

Lavery: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like your advice about the intimidation that I seem to be getting from the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson). The last couple of times I have been in the Chamber, there have been some absolutely terrible remarks. I am sure you remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, the last time he had to return and apologise. How can this be stopped? How can we tackle it? If Members do not want to give way, they do not have to, but they should not suffer abuse as a result.

Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I was in the Chair the very last time this happened. That is why I intervened to say that the hon. Gentleman was not giving way. I could not hear what the hon. Member for Ashfield said, because I was talking when he said it, and he then withdrew it. However, Mr Speaker made it absolutely clear at the beginning of today’s sitting, after what happened on the streets of London yesterday, that we must all be temperate in the language we use, not only in the Chamber but outside it. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will take that on board before they stand up, and even when they make sedentary interventions, and that they are very temperate in the language they use.

Anderson then directed his interventions towards other Labour MPs.

One recommended collective bargaining. Anderson, who was a Labour Party member until 2018, intervened:

The hon. Gentleman mentions collective bargaining, but will he say how successful that was in the 1970s, when the lights were out?

True!

Another Labour MP recommended more nuclear power. Anderson said:

My hon. Friend talks about nuclear power. It is quite interesting, actually, because I wonder if he can recall that, in 1997, the Labour manifesto said, “We can see no economic case for the building of any new nuclear power stations.” Does he think now, moving on 20-odd years, that they regret that?

Crime

Lee Anderson is, to paraphrase Tony Blair, ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.

On June 8, 2021, during the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill debate, he spoke frankly about the travelling community:

We have a big problem in Ashfield with the travelling community. They come two or three times a year. I did my own poll of about 2,000 constituents, and 95% agreed with me that the Travellers were creating a massive problem—crime was going up, pets were going missing, antisocial behaviour was going through the roof and properties were getting broken into. My constituents do not want them in our area anymore. That was a survey of 2,000 people, and that was the response from 95% of them. That evidence from my area is a bit more compelling than the petition the hon. Gentleman mentioned, which has probably been signed by 100,000 Travellers.

A Labour MP, Bambos Charalambous, said the problems in Ashfield arose because of inadequate housing provision.

Later on, Anderson said:

We have already established that in places where Traveller communities set up, such as Ashfield, crime goes up; we know that there is a direct correlation between Travellers being in the area and crime going up. Does the hon. Gentleman think that crime will come down if we have a permanent site in Ashfield?

Undeterred by the throwaway answers he was receiving, Anderson intervened once again in Charalambous’s speech:

At the beginning, the hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about Romani Gypsies coming here more than 500 years ago, but the Gypsy encampments that we are talking about in places such as Ashfield are not the traditional, old-fashioned Gypsies sat there playing the mandolin, flogging lucky heather and telling fortunes. The Travellers I am talking about are more likely to be seen leaving your garden shed at 3 o’clock in the morning, probably with your lawnmower and half of your tools. That happens every single time they come to Ashfield. Does he agree that there is some confusion on the Opposition side as to who these people actually are?

Charalambous replied that there were many misconceptions about the various traveller communities, which were unhelpful.

Anderson made his final intervention a short time afterwards:

About five years ago, we had Travellers come to a car park in my village and they left a load of rubbish there, which cost the council over £1,000 to clean up. A few weeks later, they came back again, left another load of rubbish that cost another £1,000. I got that fed up with the local council that I hired a JCB and put two concrete blocks there, to stop the Travellers coming back and to keep the beauty spot tidy, and I got a £100 fixed penalty notice from my local Labour authority. Does the hon. Gentleman think that that was the right course of action?

Charalambous said that it was the local council’s responsibility to take action, not individuals.

On May 11, 2022, after this year’s Queen’s Speech, MPs discussed the subject again in the Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice debate. The plan to send migrants to Rwanda was also announced that day.

Anderson delivered a speech on public protests, which have gone out of control over the past few years. At times, the police looked as if they are aiding and abetting the protesters:

Nobody should feel unsafe on the streets or in their home, which is why preventing crime is probably the most important part of this Queen’s Speech. Each time we debate the subject in this place, the Labour party seems to side with the criminals. I am not sure why that is, but it seems to happen every single time. The Queen’s Speech serves as a reminder to everyone that the Conservatives are the only party that is serious about law and order in the UK.

The vast majority of decent, hard-working people in this country will welcome the new public order Bill. Every week we see mindless people who have nothing better to do than wreak havoc on our streets, motorways and petrol stations. Frankly, the hard-working people of this country are fed up to the back teeth of these people disrupting lives and destroying property.

When I have been out and about, I have seen people gluing themselves to property, digging up lawns, throwing paint and performing zombie-like dances in the middle of the road with no regard for the decent, hard-working people of this country. [Interruption.] … These people have no regard for the decent, hard-working people of this country, and their guerrilla tactics are disrupting emergency workers and putting lives at risk. The public have had enough.

We were pretty good at handing out fines during lockdown. We dished out big fines, some justified and some not, and I hope the Government will consider handing out bigger fines to these public nuisances who think it is a good idea to damage petrol stations. I suggest a £10,000 fine, going up to 20 grand. That will teach them. Going back to their mum and dad with a 10 grand fine might be the deterrent they need.

Let us remind ourselves of what the Conservative party has been up to in government. We are recruiting 20,000 new police officers, and there are already more than 13,000 new police officers on our streets, making our streets safer. We have enshrined the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 in law, giving the police extra powers to prevent crime and keep dangerous criminals off our streets. The Act stops the automatic early release of dangerous, violent and sexual offenders, widens the scope of police powers such as stop and search, and places a legal duty on local authorities to work together with fire and rescue services, the police and criminal justice agencies. Labour voted against the Act, and I will tell the House what else Labour voted against: everything in the Act.

In Ashfield we are really benefiting from a Conservative Government. We have just had £550,000 from the safer streets fund, with which we are putting up CCTV in some really dodgy areas of my town. This will make women and young girls feel safe. There will be safe hotspots where they can reach out for help. It is wonderful news for one of the most deprived areas of my constituency. We are using the fund to put up new security gates to secure alleyways, which are antisocial behaviour hotspots. The funding is making residents feel safe in their own home. It is real action. On top of that, we have new police officers in the Operation Reacher teams in Eastwood and Ashfield, which are going out to take the most undesirable people off our streets and lock them up.

The police had always been a little frustrated that the sentencing has not been enough for these criminals, but we have sorted that with the 2022 Act. People will be locked up for longer, and so they should be. It makes people in Ashfield and Eastwood feel safer, it makes me feel safer and it makes my family feel safer. When these criminals are arrested and taken through the court system, it is only right that they should be put away for as long as possible to make us all feel safe.

Labour also has no ideas about the illegal crossings by dinghies and boats coming over the channel. Labour Members seem to be confused, as they do not know the difference between an economic migrant and a genuine asylum seeker, which is a shame. My constituents in Ashfield would put them right. If Labour Members come up to my Wetherspoons in Kirkby, my constituents will tell them the difference—they are pretty good at it.

An SNP MP intervened to say that the Home Office considers most of those coming illegally over the Channel as refugees.

Anderson replied:

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention and I think that what she describes is the fault of the old, failing asylum system; when people get here, they know how to fill the forms out and they have these lefty lawyers who say, “Put this, this and this.” So they fill the forms out and, hey presto, about 80% get asylum status, and it is wrong. It is a burden on the taxpayer, these people are abusing the system. It is a bit like some benefit cheats—they do it, don’t they? They abuse the system, saying that they are disabled when they are not. [Interruption.] Yes, they do. Come on, let’s be right about it.

Make no mistake: if that lot on the Opposition Benches got in power, perish the thought, this Rwanda plan would be scrapped within five minutes. They want to see open borders. They want to let anybody in. [Interruption.] However, I welcome the sensible comments on food bank use made by the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who is not in his place. I would welcome any Opposition Member coming to visit my local food bank in Ashfield, where I help out on a regular basis. We have a great project in place at the moment.

You can read more about Anderson’s food bank controversy in Part 3.

Free speech at universities

Last week, on July 12, Anderson participated in the debate on the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. He rightly took strong exception to the metropolitan elite:

Now then, if we control what students in universities can listen to, we are controlling what they can think and the type of person they will become. That may work in places such as North Korea and, possibly, within the Labour party, but it has no place in our society. The Bill will strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities. It is not the job of the Labour party or anybody else to control who we listen to. The champagne socialists, the Islington elite and the trade unions may agree with the Labour party, but most of the country do not. We fought and won a war to protect our freedoms, and freedom of speech, to my mind, is the most important freedom that we have.

Let us not forget that universities are there to supply our great country with scientists, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, nurses and so on, not to provide us with state-sponsored political activists who have only one opinion or one goal in life. Our young people should be able to flourish at university and be open to all kinds of debate. Let them make their own mistakes, form their own opinions and ask their own questions. We should not dictate who they can and cannot listen to.

By voting against this Bill, Labour is saying that our university students are not capable of making up their own minds. It is a bit like the Brexit debate when it told my residents in Ashfield and Eastwood that they were thick, they were stupid, they were racist and they did not know what they were voting for. Well, that ended well! It ended up with my standing here tonight.

We know that free speech is being shut down in universities in this country. Professor Jo Phoenix was due to give a talk at Essex University about placing transgender women in women’s prisons. Students threatened to barricade the hall. They complained that Ms Phoenix was a transphobe who was likely to engage in hate speech. A flyer with an image of a gun and text reading “Shut the **** up” was circulated. The university told Ms Phoenix and the event was postponed.

What about the human rights lawyer Rosa Freedman, a radical feminist law professor, whose event was cancelled amid allegations of transphobia? She received a passive aggressive email from a University of Reading student who called her views on gender politics “problematic” and warned her to “choose her words carefully”. Selina Todd, an Oxford University professor, had her invitation to a conference celebrating women withdrawn owing to pressure from trans activists who had threatened to disrupt the event.

It is a real shame that we have to legislate to allow free speech, but the biggest shame is that Labour Members will vote against the Bill and subsequently vote against free speech. Perhaps they should all come off Twitter, throw their Guardian newspapers away, leave the Tea Room, and get out there and speak to the millions of voters they lost at the last election. Let us have some free speech on the doorstep and perhaps that lot on the Opposition Benches will finally realise that they have nothing in common with the very people they expect to vote for them. Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker; that is me done.

The next MP to speak was from Labour. That MP disliked being told he was against free speech. He ended by saying:

If this legislation were needed, I would support it, but I do not think that it is needed, because, as has already been said, the legislation is already in place. We know the reason why, because we have had it explained. We just had a great example of it from the hon. Member for Ashfield. This is actually about trying to use the so-called woke agenda in a political manner. It is amplifying the message, so we get a situation where anyone who dares to question what happens or who votes against this Bill tonight is said to be against freedom of speech.

Anderson intervened to say:

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the important points that he is making in the Chamber tonight, but the most important thing I want to thank him for is mentioning the word “Ashfield”. That is the first time ever in this Chamber that a Labour politician has mentioned the word “Ashfield”, so I thank him for that.

Immigration

Lee Anderson likes hard-working immigrants but, along with most other Britons, objects to people coming to the UK illegally then complaining about living in three-star hotels with three square meals a day.

On July 19, 2021, during a Nationality and Borders Bill debate, he related the story of a man he once knew, Janis Bite, who came to the UK from Latvia:

Now then, Janis Bite was 13 years old and living in Latvia at the start of World War Two. Two years later, the Nazis came. Their request was simple: one male member from each family to go and fight the Russians. It was either Janis, his dad or his younger brother, so Janis went to the Russian front and witnessed the horrors of war in temperatures of minus 40.

When the war ended in 1945, Janis was classed as a displaced person—a refugee. Imagine that. He could not go back to Latvia, because he had been sent straight to Siberia and that is where they sent his dad, so Janis was given two more choices: the US or the UK. So he came to the UK to a small village in Derbyshire, where he and other refugees were housed in Nissen huts in army barracks. He did not complain or whinge or moan about the barracks or set fire to the barracks or make TikTok videos. In fact, they were so grateful to the UK that they all volunteered to work in the fields at local farms picking potatoes and other seasonal vegetables for no pay. Janis met a girl in the village, he fell in love and he later married. He worked hard all his life and had three sons, one of them being Alan in Ashfield. Janis loved his football. He became a British citizen and loved this country. He even went on to meet our Queen. Janis is no longer with us, but his story makes me feel incredibly proud of our great country and its willingness to help people from all over the world.

A Conservative MP asked Anderson if Janis Bite would have been affronted by the misguided, generous way the Home Office treats illegal immigrants.

Anderson responded:

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. That is absolutely right. I spoke to Janis’s family last week in Ashfield, and they made exactly that point. I will feed that back to them when I get back to Ashfield this weekend.

We have always been a welcoming and tolerant country that has reached out to genuine refugees from all over the world, but just like Janis’s family in Ashfield, most people in the UK do not accept that people travelling here from France in dinghies are genuine asylum seekers[Interruption.] They are not genuine asylum seekers. We know that many of them have been trafficked with a clear instruction on how to claim asylum once they get here. That is because our asylum system is not fit for purpose, and this Bill stops that.

The Labour party and the Opposition want to bring back free movement. They dislike our points-based immigration system, and now they are going to vote against a Bill that protects our borders and helps us deport foreign murderers and rapists. They will always vote against the British people. This new Bill will ensure that people in genuine need, like Janis all those years ago, get the help they need, and the greedy lawyers and the human traffickers will be told, “No more.” We owe it to people such as Janis who are suffering today to ensure that we have a fairer system that offers genuine refugees a safe haven. This Bill does that.

We have nothing to be ashamed of in this country. We are a kind, tolerant and welcoming country. That is proven by the number of people who risk their lives every single day to get here. If Janis’s family can see that the current situation is unacceptable, surely the Opposition should see that too.

I give a massive thanks to the Home Secretary, who has stuck to her guns. She has listened to the British people and delivered. Opposition MPs want to travel into reality. I will offer this opportunity to all of you now sitting there now with those glazed expressions on your face: come down to Ashfield, come speak to some real people in my towns and villages, and the message you will get will be completely different from the message you are feeding into this House. I am here because of you lot and the attitudes you had in 2019. We are getting tough on crime, we are getting tough on immigration and we are getting tough on law and order.

Well said!

I’m still not finished with Lee Anderson’s policy stances. More to come next week.

Our Creator broke the mould when he made Lee Anderson.

Of all the Red Wall MPs, he is the most candid and colourful.

Lee Anderson represents his home constituency of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, which, since its inception in 1955, has always had a Labour MP, except for a brief period between 1977 and 1979, when it had a Conservative MP because of a by-election.

Lee Anderson was Labour born and bred. He was a card-carrying Party member. He served as a local councillor for Ashfield’s Huthwaite and Brierley ward from 2015 until 2018. He also actively campaigned for his parliamentary predecessor, Gloria De Piero, in 2015 and 2017.

De Piero decided not to run for re-election in 2019, having been Ashfield’s MP for nine years at that point. Prior to entering politics, she was a presenter on ITV’s breakfast show GMTV (as was) and is now a presenter on GB News at lunchtime.

Another famous Labour MP representing Ashfield was Geoff Hoon, who served between 1992 and 2010. He is a former Defence Secretary, Transport Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Government Chief Whip.

Returning to Lee Anderson, he was a strong supporter of Brexit and backed the Vote Leave campaign preceding the June 2016 referendum.

In 2018, he left Labour for the Conservative Party. In May 2019, he was elected as Conservative councillor for the Oakham ward in nearby Mansfield. It was a position he held until early 2021, when he resigned.

In December 2019’s general election, he won Ashfield with a majority of 5,733 votes. An Independent candidate placed second, with Labour a distant third.

Maiden speech

Anderson gave his maiden speech on Monday, January 27, 2020 during an NHS funding debate.

Emphases in purple mine below.

As is customary, he paid tribute to his predecessor and pointed out that Nottinghamshire had voted Conservative:

I am bursting with pride as I stand here as the newly elected Member of Parliament for Ashfield, but I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Gloria De Piero, who was the MP for Ashfield for nine years. I am sure everybody in the Chamber will agree that she was well respected on both sides of the House. I also want to pay respect to my seven colleagues in Nottinghamshire, who were all elected on the same day as me last month. They did a fantastic job …

Also customary is to praise one’s constituency and throw in a few quips. Note that Anderson worked as a miner for some time, partly because of Labour’s abysmal education policies:

Ashfield was once voted the best place in the world to live—by me and my mates one Sunday afternoon in the local Wetherspoons. It really is the best place. Ashfield is a typical mining constituency. To the south of the constituency we have Eastwood, birthplace of D.H. Lawrence, to the north we have Nuncargate, birthplace of our most famous cricketer, Harold Larwood, and further north we have Teversal, which is where D.H. Lawrence wrote probably his most famous novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”—a book I have read several times. We have many other great towns and villages in Ashfield, such as Sutton, Kirkby, Annesley, Selston, Jacksdale, Westwood, Bagthorpe and Stanton Hill, but the place that is closest to my heart in Ashfield is the place where I grew up, a mining village called Huthwaite.

Like with many villages, when I was growing up in the 1970s most of the men in Huthwaite worked down the pits. I went to a school called John Davies Primary School, and I was always told at school in the ’70s, as many of us were, “Work hard, lad, do well, take the 11-plus, go to grammar school and you’ll not have to go down the pit like your dad and your granddad and your uncles.” Unfortunately, a couple of years before we were due to take our 11-plus, the Labour Government at the time withdrew it from our curriculum, so I was unable to go to grammar school, and none of our school went as a consequence of that. Just a few years later I was down the pit with my dad—working at the pit where my granddad and my uncles had worked. I did that for many years and I am sure my dad, who is watching this right now—a decent, hard-working, working-class bloke—did not want me down the pit. He wanted better for me, but that was taken away. I cannot help but think that, had children in my day had the chance to go to grammar school, they would have had more opportunities and probably a better life. Because I am telling you now, when I worked down those pits in Nottinghamshire, I worked with doctors, with brain surgeons, with airline pilots, with astronauts—with all these brilliant people who never a chance. The Prime Minister is quite right when he says that talent is spread evenly across this country but opportunity is not, and my constituency is living proof of that.

People of Ashfield are a straight-talking bunch—a bit dry, a wicked sense of humour, a bit sarcastic sometimes—but that is borne out of our tough industrial past. You have to remember that we were the people who dug the coal to fuel the nation. We were the people who sent our young people—our young men and women—to war to die for this country. We were the people who made the clothes that clothed the nation. And we were the people who brewed the beer that got us all persistently drunk every single weekend.

In 1993, under a Conservative Government, we reopened the Robin Hood line in Ashfield, and all through the county of Nottinghamshire, which created endless opportunities for passengers to travel for work, for play and for jobs. Standing here as a Conservative MP in 2020, I am proud to say that this Government are once again looking at extending our Robin Hood line to cover the rest of the county. They are also looking at reopening the Maid Marian line, which will again carry passengers to the most isolated and rural areas of our country. It is all well and good having good education and good training, but transport means just as much to the people in my community.

My friends, family and constituents have asked me every single day what it is like to be down here in Westminster. I say, “It’s brilliant—amazing. We’ve got great staff—the doorkeepers.” Every single person who works here has been absolutely brilliant to me. It is an amazing place. I have met all these famous people—I have met MPs, Lords and Ministers—but the best moment for me was last Wednesday night, when I got invited to Downing Street, to No. 10, for the first time ever in my life. I walked through that door and there he was, the man himself—Larry the Cat. [Laughter.] Told you we were funny.

I was born at the brilliant King’s Mill Hospital in Ashfield. King’s Mill was built by the American army during world war two to look after its injured service personnel. After the war, the American Government gave King’s Mill Hospital—the buildings and equipment—to the people of Ashfield as a thank-you gift. What a wonderful gift that is from our American cousins—absolutely stunning. I cannot praise the current staff and management at King’s Mill highly enough. They have really turned things around. Just 20-odd years after the American Government gave King’s Mill Hospital to the people of Ashford, I was born there, and later my children were born there.

It is not just our hospital in Ashfield that means a lot to me; it is the fact that it has saved my wife’s life for many, many years now. My wife was born with a condition called cystic fibrosis. She was not diagnosed until she was 18, and for anybody, to be told that they have cystic fibrosis is like getting an early death sentence. But undeterred, my wife—my beautiful wife—went to work for a year. She then went to university, she studied, she became a teacher and she taught for 10 years, until she got to her early 30s, when she could not really carry on any more and gave up work. All that time, our brilliant NHS staff looked after her and kept her alive—I cannot thank them enough—but things got really bad in her mid-30s and she had to go on the list for a double lung transplant. She was on that list for two years, and we had five false alarms before we finally got the call on 19 December 2016. The operation was 14 hours and she spent three days in critical care. I thank my lucky stars for our brilliant NHS. They looked after her, they have kept her alive, and last year she was elected as a Conservative councillor in our home town.

I am incredibly proud, and when people say that this party is a party of privilege, I say to them, “I’m privileged to be in this party.”

Cost of living crisis

Two years later, Anderson was still firmly in the Conservative camp. In the January 11, 2022 debate on Household Energy Bills, he skewered Labour:

Now then, if Labour Members really wanted to help the poorest people in society, they would not come to this House with a motion to cut somebody’s bill by £61 a year. There were Labour MPs drinking in the Terrace bar last night who spent more than that on a round of drinks.

Do I want VAT removed from our energy bills? Of course I do. Everybody does. That is why last week I signed a letter to the Chancellor, asking him to cut the VAT on bills. I also want the removal of levies on domestic energy, which are nearly a quarter of an electricity bill. That sort of saving is a real saving, which would make a real difference to the people in Ashfield and Eastwood, but of course there is not much of an appetite for that in this place as we strive to be net zero in record time.

No one disagrees with what we are trying to do to save the planet, but a lot of us are sat here on over 80 grand a year—and some people have second jobs—and we are telling poor people that they must pay more to heat their homes. Frankly, when it comes to heating homes, people do not care where their gas or electricity comes from, in the same way as they do not care where their petrol or diesel comes from when they go to fill up their cars. All people want is to be able to afford their bills—that is all.

Labour Members are trying to play politics with people’s lives so that they can get a cheap social media clip saying, “The nasty Tories are voting against a cut in VAT.” They rely on the great British public not knowing how the process works in this place. It is a pitiful way of conducting themselves.

Let us be honest, this is not a vote to help poorer people pay their bills. It is a vote to take over the Order Paper so the Opposition can return us to the disastrous days of a few years ago that almost cancelled Brexit. There is no doubt that people are struggling and the cost of living is increasing with the increase in fuel prices, but who is to blame for that increase? We cannot just blame the pandemic, as we are all to blame. Successive Governments have never taken this seriously. We closed all our pits and we do not produce gas like we used to. Both Conservative and Labour Governments, let us be honest, have ignored this for years.

I see Labour Members shaking their heads, but they are not really interested in helping people in places like Ashfield, which has been ignored for decades. Ashfield has had no investment at all, but so far under this Government we have had £70 million, two new schools coming and hopefully a new railway line. We have millions of pounds coming to Ashfield, and what is Labour’s answer to levelling up Ashfield? A saving of £1 a week on energy bills. That is absolutely disgraceful, and Labour Members should hang their head in shame.

Labour and the SNP

Few MPs are as outspoken about Labour and Scotland’s SNP as Lee Anderson.

On Tuesday, November 30, 2021 — St Andrew’s Day — the Opposition Day debate was all about Boris. The Downing Street parties had just come to light: ‘Conduct of the Right Hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip’.

As expected, Labour and the other opposition parties painted themselves whiter than white, including Annelise Dodds MP, who led the debate. She said, in part:

the current Prime Minister is, unfortunately, falling short, the Conservative Government are failing to get a grip, and working people are paying the price.

Anderson intervened:

The hon. Lady talks about honesty and integrity. Could she please confirm how many Labour MPs have ended up in the nick over the past 10 years?

Dodds brushed over the intervention, but Anderson was undaunted. He signalled the answer:

Here’s Guido’s video:

He also launched broadsides at the SNP, the Commons’ third largest party. For months — and well over a year now — the SNP have refused to say what has happened to £600,000 from their donors. At first it was ‘ring fenced’ (their words), then it seemed to have gone into other funds. However, what actually was done with the money remains a mystery.

Anderson said:

On this happy St Andrew’s Day I have had haggis, Irn-Bru and an SNP debate; I can recommend two out of the three any time of day.

Since arriving here in Parliament in 2019 it has always struck me that the SNP is just a one-trick pony, ignoring its own failings on health, education and the economy to put its own selfish case forward for independence. But it is losing the argument—we know that by the poll results—so SNP Members have adopted a new tactic: to besmirch the good name of our great Prime Minister. Maybe they should tell us where the missing £600,000 is and explain why senior members of their party stood down from its national executive committee earlier this year. Their own MPs are asking difficult questions yet the leadership remains silent. Maybe they should apologise to the people of Scotland for the state of their education system, which is failing thousands of Scottish children while they bang on about leaving the Union and rejoining the European Union. Maybe they should explain to the people of Scotland why, despite being in power for 13 years, they have the worst health statistics in the world. Frankly, they should be ashamed of themselves, instead of wasting parliamentary time on a pointless debate that will achieve nothing, and they should explain why after 13 years in power Scotland is going backwards.

A back-and-forth with SNP MP Marion Fellows followed. Fellows objected to Anderson’s allegation about Scotland’s health statistics.

He came back with this:

I might make a slight correction here: perhaps I should have referred to the drug deaths, which are the worst in the western world.

What we need to chat about is the Westminster leader of the SNP, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), who has been very quiet about the £270,000 he has rinsed from outside earnings since he was elected to Westminster in 2015. It would take the average worker in Scotland 11 years to earn that much money yet he stands over there every single Wednesday talking about poverty when his greedy snout is firmly in the trough; and remember this is on top—

He ended up having to apologise for mentioning another MP — Ian Blackford — in debate without his permission.

However, Anderson returned to Labour who previously mentioned they wanted the British military to turn into a gentle peace-keeping force:

I am going to stop picking on the SNP, because I want to talk about the massed ranks of the Labour party. I am struggling to see them at the moment. Despite pretending to be bothered, they could not be bothered to turn up today. They seem to think that there is a war raging in France at the moment and that it is acceptable for thousands of illegal migrants to cross our channel every single day. They really need to get a grip.

Another sign that the Labour party has lost the plot is that it wants to replace our armed forces with “human security services”—a shift from the classic armed forces to a gender balanced, ethnically diverse human security services tasked with dampening down violence. Imagine that, Madam Deputy Speaker: a peace-loving British tank

Madam Deputy Speaker put a stop to Anderson’s interventions and called on another MP.

One week later, on Wednesday, December 8, Anderson openly criticised Labour’s Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, former chairman of the Labour Party and, before he entered politics, former president of the National Union of Mineworkers. This was during a debate on Rail Investment and Integrated Rail Plan:

Guido Fawkes had the highlights and the video (red emphases in the original):

Lee Anderson returns to once again slap down misbehaving Labour MPs in the chamber … Lavery kept his jeering off-mic, interrupting Anderson’s speech by calling him “a scab“. Anderson returned the favour by reminding Lavery he could help miners get a “fair deal” by “handing back the £165,000 he stole from them”…

This relates to a news story from 2017. On October 20 that year, the BBC reported (bold emphasis in the original):

MP Ian Lavery received £165,000 from the 10-member trade union he ran.

We have learned this from the trade union regulator which has now released a report into Mr Lavery’s actions as general secretary of the NUM Northumberland Area.

He will now face questions on his record over a number of disputed payments by the union he ran.

Mr Lavery, who is the chairman of the Labour Party, denies any wrongdoing.

Ian Lavery is a coming power in the land, Jeremy Corbyn’s general election joint co-ordinator and chairman of the Labour Party. If the Conservatives fall, he’s most likely destined for high office. But, perhaps, for one thing: his refusal to answer a simple question asked by BBC Newsnight last year: “Did you pay off the mortgage?” BBC Newsnight asked him nine times without getting a reply.

The answer, it turns out, is no. He didn’t pay off his mortgage. The union of which he was general secretary for 18 years, the NUM Northumberland Area, paid it off and paid him much more besides.

Last year, both Jeremy Corbyn and the parliamentary watchdog cleared Mr Lavery. He denies any wrongdoing.

The reason we know more about Mr Lavery’s peculiar mortgage arrangements is because the trade union regulator, the Certification Officer, Gerard Walker, examined the books after investigations by BBC Newsnight and the Sunday Times. Mr Lavery ran the NUM Northumberland Area for 18 years until he stepped down in 2010 to become the MP for Wansbeck.

The regulator’s findings are available online

I’ll leave it to readers to get the rest of the story, which involved a lot of money over various periods in time.

Ian Lavery is still a big deal in Parliament.

This is what Lee Anderson said in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) debate:

Let us remember that until a few years ago, the red wall seats like Ashfield had several things in common. They had above-average deprivation, failing town centres, lower life expectancy, poor transport links and lower aspirations; but the main thing that places like Ashfield, Mansfield and Bolsover had in common was Labour MPs and Labour-run councils. What a shocking track record that is. [Interruption.] Rather than chuntering, Opposition Members should be ashamed of the legacy that they have left us new Conservative Members in places like Ashfield. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) might want to concentrate on giving back the £165,000 that he stole from the miners on his own patch. He is an absolute disgrace.

What does this world-class plan mean for the people of Nottinghamshire? It means a high-speed line from the west midlands to the east midlands, providing direct high-speed rail services to Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, and Sheffield. Journey times from London to Nottingham will be cut by a third to just 57 minutes. Journey times from Sheffield to London will be cut by a quarter, to just 1 hour 27 minutes. Journey times from Nottingham to Birmingham will be cut by two thirds, to just 26 minutes. Even Labour in the north is backing the plan. According to the leader of Rotherham council, “It is a victory for common sense”.

It is a pity that that lot have no common sense.

This is all good news. The Mayor of Doncaster welcomes the plan, and even the next Labour leader, the Mayor of Manchester, welcomes it. It would appear that the members of the parliamentary Labour party are out of touch with their friends in the midlands and the north, who back the IRP. It is a good job that Conservative MPs are sitting here today speaking out for the Labour voters of yesterday.

As the furore about the Downing Street parties raged, and despite Boris’s apology to MPs in the chamber in mid-January, then-Conservative MP Christian Wakeford, who represents Bury, crossed the aisle just before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 to sit with Labour MPs.

Anderson was disgusted. His former boss, Gloria De Piero, interviewed him for GB News:

I have much more to write about Lee Anderson, one of the most refreshing Conservative MPs we’ve had in ages.

To be continued …

To follow this series, it is helpful to read parts 1 and 2.

We left off on Sunday, May 8, 2022. That day, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had cancelled an appearance at an Institute for Government event on Monday in advance of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

Labour’s campaign beer and curry event took place on April 30, 2021. The Sun made it public soon afterwards, but it did not get traction from other papers, namely The Telegraph and the Mail, until January 2022. Durham Constabulary only decided to really investigate it on Friday, May 6, 2022. Starmer took legal advice and cancelled his public appearance on Monday, May 9.

Journalists and pundits noted the length of time between the event, its wider coverage, the internal memo about the event leaked to the Mail on Sunday and Starmer’s reaction to the press coverage it received. No one forgot Starmer’s spending from December 2021 to May 2022 calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation over Downing Street events:

With the shoe being on the other foot, Labour supporters wanted Starmer’s event, held in Labour MP Mary Foy’s Durham office, to disappear from the public consciousness. Didn’t we know there was a war on in Ukraine? Didn’t anyone care about the cost of living crisis? Suddenly, breaking coronavirus restriction rules was something no one should care about unless it had to do with Boris and Downing Street.

Mail on Sunday journalist Dan Hodges noted the hypocrisy:

A YouGov poll published on Monday showed that the public thought Starmer should stand down if he gets a fine:

Guido Fawkes has YouGov’s breakdown of the public’s opinion on both Starmer and Boris. Not surprisingly, more people think that Boris should resign. That said, Conservative voters are more forgiving of Starmer than are Labour voters. That’s because most Conservatives believe in repentance.

Guido says a majority of the public think that Starmer broke the rules:

The general public is firmly of the view that Starmer should resign, at 46% agreeing versus 32% opposing. They also comfortably believe Starmer either did definitely or probably break the rules (54%) to probably didn’t or definitely didn’t (21%).

Guido conducted his own poll on Monday, May 9. Just under 50 per cent thought that the Labour leader — and Leader of the Opposition (LOTO) — should resign using the same standards that he applied to Boris:

Earlier on Monday, Starmer decided to issue a short statement to the media at 4 p.m. that day. By the time Guido closed his poll, there was a half hour left before that small, select event took place.

Guido’s post on the poll says (emphases in the original):

With Sir Keir expected to make a statement on Beergate at 4pm today, Guido asked co-conspirators how they’d advise Starmer if they were by his side in the LOTO office over the weekend. Resign right away? Wait for the police investigation? Tough it out…?

Thousands voted, and it turns out readers are divided. Half (49.6%) think Starmer should resign at the podium today – given he called for Boris’s resignation the moment the police launched their inquiry – 28.9% think he should resign only if fined, with a further 21.5% saying he should tough it out regardless of the police outcome. Guido’s own view is that the latter choice is politically impossible given his approach to Partygate. Demanding Boris and Rishi resign over a birthday cake set the bar incredibly high for his own behaviour – a bar he hasn’t met. If he’s not going to resign today, then his only real option is to promise he’ll go if Durham Police whack him with a fine…

Starmer invited only three journalists to hear his statement.

He said he would resign if fined.

Guido analysed that statement and said there was more to it than one might think:

Seeing as Charles — now Lord — Falconer is advising Starmer, Blairite tactics could come into play:

Sir Keir has just confirmed he will resign in the event of being given a fine, an unprecedented announcement from a Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition … Guido can see another obvious tactic at play from the pound shop Blair wannabee

In 2007, when under investigation for the Cash For Honours scandal, Tony Blair’s team warned the Metropolitan Police that the PM would have to resign if interviewed under caution, forcing them to back off under such immense political pressure:

Sources close to the inquiry said that there were difficult discussions before a political intermediary made senior detectives aware of the serious implications of treating the Prime Minister as a suspect.

“Make no mistake, Scotland Yard was informed that Mr Blair would resign as Prime Minister if he was interviewed under caution,” said a source. “They were placed in a very difficult position indeed.”

On Saturday, when Guido exclusively revealed Lord Falconer has been tasked with putting together out Sir Keir’s legal defence, he didn’t expect Blair’s Justice Secretary to copy the tactic used by his old party boss so like-for-like. Unfortunately for Starmer one of his team accidentally explained the quiet bit out loud to ITV’s Daniel Hewitt, briefingit puts some pressure on Durham Police who are being leant on in one direction”. Former DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] Sir Keir knows a thing or two about letting police forces fudge an investigation and letting the culprit get away…

Hmm:

It will be interesting to see how a campaign team can justify alcohol at a notional working event, especially as a few overdid it:

Guido was referring to a Politico article by Alex Wickham, who wrote that he received no denials of the following account containing mentions of drunkenness:

On Tuesday, May 10 — Day 13 of Beergate — the Mail led with Starmer’s alleged piling of pressure on Durham police:

That day, fallout followed Starmer’s cosy Monday afternoon session with only three journalists.

The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole was left out in the cold. ‘Lobby’ refers to the media:

Guido said this was but another episode in a long-running period in which Labour have not been transparent with the media:

Guido has been tracking this issue for some time:

Guido’s campaign to get Labour to publish their shadow cabinet meetings with media proprietors and editors, as pledged following Leveson, seems to be going nowhere, despite repeated promises from Labour HQ to pull their finger out. Yesterday Labour’s relationship with press transparency got colder, when Sir Keir invited just three tame broadcasters into the room, blocking any hacks who may have asked difficult questions from attending. GB News’ Tom Harwood was told this was due to “limited space”. Guido is old enough to remember when the Lobby was collectively outraged when only selected broadcasters were invited by Lee Cain [Boris’s former Downing Street Director of Communications] for a briefing… 

Now Guido’s spotted another press frontier on which Labour’s dropping the ball: publishing press releases. Labour’s website hasn’t published a press release in over 40 days, the most protracted period of policy publishing paralysis since Starmer took over …

Perhaps not a good look when even the Labour-supporting press is starting to suggest Sir Keir needs some policies to win, not just claims of personal sainthood…

That day, YouGov published a new poll taken on May 5 and 6 that shows the Conservatives were one point below Labour. Other polls still show Labour in the lead, but here is YouGov’s take:

Guido wrote:

Margin of error territory as the public no longer perceives Sir Keir as “Mr Rules”. One poll so far so will be intrigued to see if this is a trend…

Prince Charles delivered the Queen’s Speech that morning for the State Opening of Parliament.

In the afternoon, both the Commons and the Lords began separate debates on the 38 proposed bills in the Queen’s Speech.

In the Commons, at least, the week-long debate, called the Humble Address, begins jovially, and it is an honour to be the MP selected to open it.

The lucky MP was Graham Stuart (Conservative), who represents Beverley and Holderness.

He cracked a joke about Keir Starmer as he reviewed Labour’s dominance in the North of England prior to the Conservatives’ breaking through the Red Wall in 2019 (emphases in purple mine):

Robert [Sir Robert Goodwill], of course, won selection in Scarborough. He then went on to overturn Lawrie Quinn’s 3,500 majority, and was, I think, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), the only Conservative candidate in the whole of the north of England to take a seat from the Labour party at that election. The Leader of the Opposition must wish it was so today. Instead the only thing opening up for him in the north is a police investigation. [Laughter.]

Guido has the video. Look at Starmer’s painfully forced smile:

Stuart had another go when discussing the corruption in his constituency in the 18th and 19th centuries:

Obviously the law did change. Free beer and cash inducements were the electoral controversies then, rather than, say, beer and curry today. Never in the history of human conflict has so much karma come from a korma.

Some time later, it was Boris’s turn to speak, introducing the important bills. Labour MPs intervened until he put a stop to them.

Of the energy bill, he said:

The energy Bill will create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs, taking forward this Government’s energy security strategyit is about time this country had one—with £22 billion—[Interruption.] Labour did not want a single nuclear power station. Come on, be honest. Look at them, the great quivering jellies of indecision that they are. Our £22 billion UK Infrastructure Bank is supporting the transition to net zero and vast new green industries, in which our United Kingdom will again lead the world.

Boris quickly moved on to the economy and the Channel crossings of illegal migrants, during which he added a quip:

We are using our new freedoms to control our borders, with a new plan for immigration so that we can fix our broken asylum system, tackle the illegal immigration that undermines the legal immigration that we support and crack down on the vile people smugglers. I know that the Leader of the Opposition—perhaps I should, in deference to his phrase, refer to him as the Leader of the Opposition of the moment—likes to claim he opposes these plans …

Guido has the video, which is much more entertaining than reading the transcript. Boris was at his best:

That evening, The Guardian reported that Labour MPs were already talking about a change in leadership. Speaking personally, so far, Wes Streeting is the strongest candidate they have:

The majority of shadow ministers said they were grimly resigned to Starmer’s pledge – but said there were likely to be internal consequences. “I think once you start talking up the prospect of your own resignation you are on dangerous ground,” one said.

Another veteran MP, a Starmer loyalist, said they suspected ulterior motives from some shadow cabinet members. “If you fancy Keir’s job, this is win-win,” they said.

Rule changes pushed through at last year’s Labour conference mean a fifth of MPs must nominate any candidate for the party leadership in order for them to be put to a members’ postal vote – a higher threshold than under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and a move that was seen by those on the left as intending to disadvantage their candidates.

One MP said a snap leadership contest would put ascendant shadow cabinet ministers such as Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, in an advantageous position. “[Starmer’s] disappearance now would obviously benefit the Blairite right – [the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy] Burnham couldn’t stand, Sadiq Khan [the London mayor] couldn’t stand, Angela would be out of the picture for the same reason as Keir because if he goes on this she has said she will go too.”

If both Starmer and Rayner are forced to resign, there is no obvious interim leader. The most senior members of Starmer’s shadow cabinet – Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor; Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary; David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary; Streeting; and Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary – are all potential candidates in a contest. The party’s national executive committee would have to vote to designate an alternative member of the shadow cabinet.

A source close to Starmer said he was relaxed about the ambitions of his shadow cabinet. “I don’t think anyone is actively trying to undermine him. It says a lot about our party that there are so many potential candidates – look at the contrast again with the Tories. If people are ambitious, let them be.”

An ally of Streeting said: “Wes was on the media batting for Keir three times over the weekend and into Monday. He’s one of Keir’s most loyal and vocal supporters. After a great set of a local election results there is everything to play for at the next general election thanks to Keir’s leadership. This is no time for introspection.”

Senior figures in the Labour leader’s team are understood to have felt reluctant to advise Starmer he should raise the prospect of his own resignation.

On Wednesday, May 11, The Sun criticised Keir Starmer’s response to the Queen’s Speech. When responding to Boris on Tuesday, Starmer had no Labour policies to present. He merely criticised the Government at length and ended with this:

It does not have to be this way; it will not always be this way. A Labour Government would tackle the cost of living crisis head on, get Britain growing again after 12 years of failure, and improve public services so that they deliver for the people paying for them. A Labour Government would rise to the moment where this Government have badly failed.

The Sun‘s editorial, ‘Holey agenda’, said (bold in the original):

IS Keir Starmer chasing the wrong job?

He has no ideas anyone can detect, as his vacuous response to the Queen’s Speech proves. He clearly thinks it’s enough to be ‘decent’ and ‘honourable’.

Tribal Labour voters may lap up his preening sanctimony. Millions of others prefer leaders with vision and drive.

You’re auditioning for PM, Mr Starmer. Not Archbishop of Canterbury.

That day, digging around, Guido raised the matter of an early pandemic violation in Durham: that of Boris’s then-adviser Dominic Cummings at Barnard Castle in the Spring of 2020.

Durham Constabulary said at the time that there was nothing to investigate. They also stated that they did not issue retrospective fines.

As punishment, Boris made Cummings hold a lengthy televised press conference to explain himself. It lasted well over an hour and was most peculiar. At the end, after having asked many questions, one by one, reporters and broadcasters walked up individually to Cummings’s table to tell him what they thought of him.

Cummings’s press conference was his public penance.

Then again, parts of it were theatre for the public, most of whom didn’t know he is friends with many of those journalists, as is his wife. He addressed only one by his full name: Gary Gibbon from Channel 4 News.

Two years on with Starmer — and other Labour MPs in the frame — the Party’s ire was rising in Durham.

Mary Foy MP, who hosted the Durham gathering in 2021, had written a lengthy letter to Boris on May 28, 2020 about Cummings, who is pictured below in the background. The letter beneath it is recent. It is from the leader of Durham’s Labour Party to Red Wall Conservative MP Richard Holden, who had written to Durham Constabulary a few weeks ago to enquire as to whether they would investigate the 2021 Starmer event:

Mary Foy’s letter would have been better addressed to Durham Constabulary. It was up to them, not Boris, to take action against Cummings.

However, Foy took issue with Boris’s refusal to sack Cummings. In the event, he resigned a few months later for other reasons and was gone by the end of 2020.

Guido wrote about Foy’s letter, which can be viewed in its entirety on his post:

Now that Sir Keir is feeling the heat from his boozy lockdown curry night, Labour MPs are bending over backwards to explain why their leader’s Covid rule-breaking is somehow completely different to Boris’s, and why it’s right that Starmer remains in post provided he isn’t fined. One particular MP who might have some trouble with this is none other than the Honourable Member for Durham, Mary Foy…

Foy is probably best known for hosting the Beergate bhuna session in her constituency office, laughing and drinking merrily with her colleagues while the country was still in stage two of lockdown. She then went on to scream at Richard Holden for his asking Durham Police to reinvestigate the event. It turns out, however, that when Durham Police announced they wouldn’t fine Dominic Cummings over the infamous Barnard Castle trip, Foy had a few ideas about what should happen next. None of which involved Cummings keeping his job…

Here’s what Foy wrote in a public letter to Boris after the Cummings story:

The vast majority of constituents who have contacted me have expressed the view that Mr Cummings’ actions have been insensitive and unacceptable at best, and many feel that they warrant further investigation by the police.

While I understand today’s decision by Durham Police to take no further action, many of the constituents who have written to me would like Mr Cummings to resign or be sacked. Clearly, whether you stick by him or not is a matter for you, but the perception from my constituents, and I would hazard a guess that this is a common view across the North East, is that you are currently putting the interests of your chief adviser above that of the people of the region and the country as a whole.

Even though Cummings received no fixed penalty, and the police decided they’d take no further action, Foy still took the time to write a two-page letter informing the Prime Minister how upset her constituents are, and politely suggested Cummings lose his job. Presumably her office is inundated with similar letters now, all demanding Sir Keir does the honourable thing…

Labourites criticised Times Radio’s Lucy Fisher for mentioning Cummings and Starmer in the same tweet:

However, it would be wrong to think that Durham Constabulary never issued any fines — fixed penalty notices — for coronavirus violations.

On Thursday, May 12, The Times informed us of a fine Durham Constabulary issued to a bereaved woman in November 2020:

Some of Starmer’s supporters have assumed that detectives would not issue a fixed-penalty notice because they decided not to take retrospective action against Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former adviser.

However, the force’s approach appeared to harden later in the pandemic and it issued a £10,000 fine to a woman who organised a balloon release in memory of her father-in-law, who died of Covid.

Vicky Hutchinson held the gathering on November 11, 2020, in a field opposite a church in Horden, Co Durham, where Ian Stephenson’s funeral was due to take place a few days later. Her £10,000 fine was reduced to £500, based on her ability to pay, when she attended Peterlee magistrates’ court on April 23 last year, a week before the Starmer incident.

A court report by The Northern Echo revealed that Hutchinson, in her mid-thirties, had urged friends and family to wear masks and stay socially distanced at the balloon release. It said that police did not attend the gathering of about 30 people and there was no disorder.

However, it appears that there was a retrospective investigation after a complaint. Durham police analysed a livestream video of the event before issuing the fine, the report said.

The approach to Hutchinson’s case raises fresh questions about how the Durham force might handle the case of Starmer, who has denied wrongdoing …

Durham police did not respond to requests for comment.

Also on Thursday, Guido returned to Dominic Cummings, specifically what Keir Starmer said about the incident in 2020:

Guido has the quote:

Here’s what he said of Cummings back in 2020 – before the police had even launched their investigation:

This was a huge test of the Prime Minister, and he’s just failed that test. He hasn’t sacked Dominic Cummings, he hasn’t called for an investigation, and he’s treating the British public with contempt… that’s not a reasonable interpretation of the rules, and the Prime Minister knows it. One rule for the Prime Minister’s advisers, another rule for everyone else… If I were Prime Minister, I’d have sacked Cummings.

One rule for the Prime Minister’s advisers, another for Sir Keir…

And finally, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have now issued more than 100 fines for Downing Street events. Neither Boris nor his wife Carrie received one in this tranche:

Guido wrote:

A month on from their last update on Partygate, paused thanks to the local elections, the Met’s confirmed “more than 100″ fixed penalty notices have now been handed out. Downing Street say Boris has not received another fine…

Later that afternoon, GB News’s Colin Brazier and his guests discussed the Met’s issuing of fines to people who were at Downing Street gatherings.

It’s a bit rich for Brazier’s contributors to say that the Met want to channel their resources elsewhere. There are few police forces these days, including the Met, who want to investigate actual crime. This massive dispensing of fines also looks rather selective:

There is also the issue of double standards which irritate many members of the public:

Personally, I think the way the pandemic was handled was dystopian. I don’t know what to think about these fines. Part of me wants to see all of them refunded and any related criminal record for violations erased.

On the other hand, it seems only right that, if Labour have done wrong, they, too, should be fined.

So far, only the Conservatives have been. The Met have made them look positively criminal. Well, that’s par for the course in Labour-controlled London.

I’ll update this in due course.

End of series

Yesterday’s post reviewed events surrounding Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and other MPs connected with 2021’s campaign meeting, forbidden under that year’s coronavirus rules:

Keir Starmer defended Labour’s indoor beer and korma event by saying that no other venue was serving food.

Well, they were. However, the problem was that service was outdoors only at that time.

The hotel where Starmer was staying, the Radisson Blu, provided room service, but that would have precluded any other persons gathering in an individual’s room.

On the evening of Election Day, Thursday 5, 2022, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Red Wall MP Richard Holden, who had written to Durham Constabulary about properly investigating the event:

Holden said that the students who took the videos and photos offered to give Durham police a statement, but their kind offer was refused.

Holden suggested that evidence was being suppressed. He also questioned the fact that people involved had forgotten their diary details for that day.

As for dining, Holden said that, in order to comply with the rules, he had been part of a group eating a fish and chips supper outdoors in Hartlepool in windy conditions.

On Friday, May 6, Durham Constabulary finally issued a statement saying they would investigate the event held on April 30, 2021:

Labour MP Emily Thornberry dismissed the news and said all would be ‘fine’:

The BBC reported that Durham Constabulary waited until after the election to make an announcement (emphases in purple mine):

The force initially decided that no offence had occurred on 30 April last year, but said it had since received “significant new information”.

It added that it had delayed announcing the investigation until after Thursday’s local elections.

Sir Keir said he was confident he hadn’t broken any Covid rules.

He has faced criticism since he was filmed drinking a bottle of beer while in the constituency office of City of Durham MP Mary Foy.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, he said he had “stopped for something to eat” during meetings, and there was “no party”.

“The police obviously have go their job to do – we should let them get on with it,” he added.

Starmer took no questions on the matter:

Guido Fawkes resurrected a Starmer tweet from January 31:

Priceless:

The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant made an eloquent observation …

… which received these replies:

Later that day, Guido posted about the concerns that Starmer’s advisers had with the upcoming investigation:

Guido’s post says that a journalist, Ava Evans, heard that Labour MPs would not be doing media rounds for a few days (emphases in the original):

Ava also reports that one Labour MP told her they would not be participating in any media interviews for the next few days, for fear of being asked to defend Sir Keir. His actions were “indefensible” she reports them as saying. Which explains why we are only seeing Emily Thornberry abasing herself in studios…

On Saturday morning, news emerged that Starmer was taking legal advice from Lord Falconer, Tony Blair’s close friend who served as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from 2003 to 2007:

Guido reported on the development, an exclusive:

An extremely worried Keir Starmer has tasked Charlie Falconer with putting together a Beergate legal defence team. Labour lawyers have told Starmer that there is a 60% chance that he will escape a fine, however the fining of Sunak over a cake has spooked Starmer that he too could be fined over a beer and curry. The irony of the legal and political situation is exquisitely painful for the barrister politician.

Guido later added an update:

UPDATE:  In another irony, Falconer has publicly opined on the situation of politicians breaching laws they voted for in the Guardian:

… true accountability means facing justice in a criminal court. But not in this case – a fixed penalty notice does not bring any sense of justice done to those who paid what was very often a high price for obeying the rules.

Which appears to be a demand that Boris be tried in court for his birthday cake….

One of Guido’s readers wondered if Falconer’s involvement presented a conflict of interest, given his strong opinions on the matter:

That isn’t the only conflict of interest, either. There’s also Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen. Starmer campaigned for her and she won her election to that post:

The Mail on Sunday was able to obtain a leaked memo, Starmer’s itinerary for April 30, 2021:

This was the paper’s front page:

https://image.vuukle.com/d2e3e5f0-03e2-4996-96e8-9384b7dac96b-0da32b8d-68bf-4cdd-95d9-e35b4a28c113

Glen Owen’s exclusive for the MoS says:

The bombshell document, marked ‘private and confidential’, also calls into serious doubt Sir Keir’s claim that he returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries.

After the entry recording the ‘dinner in Miners Hall’ – which includes a note to ‘arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’, a local curry house – the document simply says: ‘End of visit.’

Spice Lounge did not supply food for the event. Another curry house, The Capital, did.

The paper received the memo from a whistleblower. The itinerary reveals that Angela Rayner MP was scheduled to be present:

The memo – which was passed to this newspaper by a whistleblower – also further undermines Labour’s claims that it made ‘an honest mistake’ when it denied that Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was at the event: it lists ‘AR’ alongside ‘KS’ as the two senior politicians anchoring the day’s proceedings.

Labour had denied that this was a planned event, but the memo’s existence proves that wrong:

the note – a forward-planning logistics document which is referred to as an ‘op note’ – makes clear the beer and curries had been planned in advance.

The note says that after a day’s campaigning in Hartlepool, Sir Keir’s team were due to arrive at the Radisson Blu hotel in Durham at 6.31pm, leaving by 7pm to walk to the Miners Hall.

After recording clips for the media, the note says a 1hr 20mins slot was set aside for ‘dinner in Miners Hall with Mary Foy’, the local Durham MP. A side note reads: ‘YS to arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’. YS is the acronym for a member of Sir Keir’s private office.

The Spice Lounge curry house was closed at the time, with callers being referred to the nearby Capital Indian restaurant. Last week, the Daily Mail spoke to one of the restaurant’s delivery drivers, who said he had dropped off a ‘big’ order of food for at least 15 people, including four bags of curries, rice and naan bread

The Mail on Sunday has established that the Radisson Blu was serving food when Sir Keir and his party checked in at 6.31pm and continued to do so until 9pm …

The document also refers to four members of the ‘MPL’ – Met Police Liaison – who were included in the trip, suggesting they are likely to have information useful to the investigation.

Also included on the op note is the line ‘Covid Alert Level: National Lockdown’, and ‘important note: please maintain social distancing of 2m and wear face coverings whilst indoors at all time’.

The leaked document makes clear that Ms Rayner was to play a central role in the day’s events

A Labour source said: ‘During a fast-moving campaign, the op note doesn’t always keep up with events so it would be wrong to assume that activities occurred at the times originally planned. For example, it’s been documented that the takeaway was late’.

This was Starmer’s previous denial that the gathering had been planned:

The Sunday Times also had an incriminating article. A source told the paper that some staffers were there only to party and that no work was done afterwards. Pictured below is Mary Foy MP:

It is expected that the investigation will take between four and six weeks:

Allegedly, pictures from the event circulated on Twitter. Those have since been deleted.

Interesting, to say the least:

The aforementioned Sunday Times article said that the Durham Constabulary have opened a major incident room. Angela Rayner’s presence appears to have triggered the investigation:

It was the discovery that Rayner had been at the event, despite Labour’s original claims, that prompted Durham police to open their investigation. A source close to the force said: “It raises the question about what else we might not have been told the entire truth about.”

Officers have set up a major incident room, and up to six detectives will spend the next four to six weeks looking at the potential lockdown breach. They are expected to use questionnaires — similar to the ones used by Scotland Yard to investigate Johnson and the Downing Street scandals — to interrogate those present at the event.

The force said, however, that it did not issue fines retrospectively. When Dominic Cummings was found to have made a 260-mile trip to Barnard Castle in 2020, the force said to take action against him would “amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public”.

It is unclear whether Scotland Yard’s decision to issue retrospective fines over the Downing Street gatherings could force a change of stance.

Mary Foy said:

“Me and my team were working during a very busy period, including facilitating the leader’s visit,” she said. “I do not believe either I or my office broke any rules, and I will of course fully engage with any police investigation.”

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, said:

“It’s the rank double standards that drive people crazy,” Raab told Sky News. “He needs to fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer-and-curry event in Durham.

Keir Starmer looks like, I’m afraid, someone who is engaged in complete hypocrisy, complete double standards and I don’t think he is going to get past that until he gives a proper account of what happened in Durham.”

Here’s the video of Raab talking to Sky News:

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, in charge of Brexit efficiency, told Channel 4’s Andrew Neil that one should be extremely careful with hoisted petards:

He does have a way with words.

Guido took a look at what Lord Falconer might say in Starmer’s defence:

That said, in February, The Mirror reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hired lawyers over ‘Partygate’:

The Prime Minister has hired hot shot lawyers to deal with the Met’s questions on Partygate.

The Mail reported that Starmer had cancelled his appearance on Monday, May 9, at an Institute for Government event in advance of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

Guido tweeted:

Guido’s post says:

The public event was scheduled to have included questions from the press and public. This morning, when door-stepped outside his North London home by journalists, a grim faced Starmer refused to say anything and was bundled into a waiting Range Rover. Keir clearly realises that “the police have already investigated this matter and found nothing” will no longer work as a line.

The Institute for Government is funded by the billionaire David Sainsbury, a former Labour minister under Tony Blair, who has backed centrist Labour politicians financially in the past. A statement on the website says only that the event is cancelled, with no explanation given.

The cancellation made the front page of Monday’s Daily Mail:

It was the start of another tense week for the Labour leader.

Meanwhile, Boris focused on the Queen’s Speech and historic agreements between the UK, Sweden and Finland in case of Russian aggression as a knock-on effect of the Ukraine conflict.

More to follow tomorrow.

My last post on Labour’s 2021 election campaign meeting in Durham is a week old.

The intrigue continues and so much more has happened.

It is important to reiterate that while many on social media say it did not break the coronavirus rules …

… there were specific rules for the 2021 election campaign, some of which differed from regulations for households.

Indoor campaign meetings were banned in 2021:

Let’s recall how Labour told an untruth about Angela Rayner’s not being at the April 30, 2021 event in Durham when she clearly was. Labour had to own up:

The Daily Mail reported that Labour claimed it was an honest mistake (emphases in purple mine):

Labour last night admitted it had lied about an event at which Sir Keir Starmer is alleged to have broken lockdown rules. 

In a sensational U-turn, Labour acknowledged that Angela Rayner was also at the event on April 30 last year at which Sir Keir was filmed enjoying a beer with officials at a time when indoor socialising was banned.

A Labour spokesman said last night: ‘Angela was present.’ A party source claimed the previous denials had been ‘an honest mistake’. 

It directly contradicts assurances given to the Daily Mail over the past three months that Mrs Rayner was ‘not there’

The admission came only after this newspaper confronted Labour officials with video evidence that Mrs Rayner had joined Sir Keir at an online rally for activists filmed in the Durham offices of Labour MP Mary Foy where the party leader was later seen drinking

The extraordinary revelation raises questions about whether Labour’s deputy leader also broke lockdown rules.

Recall that, for months, Labour, including Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, have been braying for Boris Johnson to resign:

Incidentally, once given a fixed penalty notice (fine) for one of the Downing Street events, Boris paid his promptly as did Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

With regard to Durham, their only Conservative MP, Richard Holden, wrote to Durham Constabulary to enquire about Labour’s indoor event.

Durham MP Mary Foy, who appears to have hosted the event in her office, took strong exception to Holden’s letter. She accosted him in Parliament’s Strangers’ Bar at the end of April:

Guido Fawkes had the story (emphases in the original):

The pressures of beergate are obviously getting to Labour MPs more than they’d like to admit: Labour MP Mary Foy launched into a furious drunken tirade against Richard Holden in the Strangers’ Bar on Tuesday night, after Holden asked Durham Police to reinvestigate Starmer for his lockdown beer drinking. Which isn’t exactly surprising, given the infamous event took place in Foy’s own constituency office…

Foy allegedly grabbed Holden’s arm and hurled so much abuse at him that her staff had to pull her away. Having had a skinful, she growled “how dare you name me and my office in this?” as apologetic staffers tried to calm her down. A witness told the Daily Mail she was “feeling the pressure”. Guido can’t imagine this morning’s revelations about Angela Rayner will do much to soothe her…

Holden threatened to take the matter to the Speaker unless she apologised the following morning. Lo and behold, on Wednesday morning Holden found “I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour on the terrace last night” in his inbox. Holden tells Guido she then went on to talk about how they could work together as Durham MPs …

The Daily Mail reported:

Three witnesses told the Daily Mail that Mary Foy vented her fury at Richard Holden on the Commons terrace on Tuesday night.

She is said to have verbally abused him for asking Durham Police to reopen the investigation into footage of the Labour leader having a beer with officials in her office on April 30, 2021.

Witnesses claim the City of Durham MP grabbed Mr Holden by the arm with both hands and tried to drag him across the terrace before staff restrained her.

Each witness said the former charity worker, 54, appeared to have been drinking heavily when the incident took place at around 10pm as MPs waited for late-night votes.

Goodness me. Being boozed up while waiting to vote on legislation? Unbelievable.

Anyway:

Mr Holden confirmed he had received a written apology from Mrs Foy the following morning. He said: ‘Mary has apologised for her totally unacceptable, drunken behaviour on the terrace and I want to leave it at that.’

A Tory source said Mrs Foy’s behaviour suggested the ‘pressure is showing’ on Labour as Durham Police face calls to finally launch a proper investigation into Sir Keir.

Mrs Foy declined to comment on the allegations when contacted yesterday and referred all questions to Labour’s press office. A party source confirmed she issued a personal apology.

The source said the pair had been drinking together in a group where there was ‘a bit of back and forth on politics generally’.

They added that it was ‘incorrect’ to say Mrs Foy had grabbed Mr Holden’s arm, but did not comment on claims she was drunk.

But several witnesses said they were shocked by the ferocity of her tirade.

More happened that day, Friday, April 29.

BBC Breakfast‘s review of the newspapers left out the Daily Mail‘s aforementioned front page with Angela Rayner on it, although reporter Iain Watson later soft-pedalled Labour’s claim that it was an honest mistake:

Guido rightly observed that the nation’s broadcaster had not afforded the Conservatives such gracious treatment:

When they finally got around to discussing the exposé, political correspondent Iain Watson was at pains to emphasise Labour’s absurd line that it was just an “honest mistake”, incredibly kind framing Guido’s sure Downing Street would not receive. The Metropolitan Police decided to U-turn and investigate No. 10’s parties after months of media pressure; now Labour’s been caught out, the establishment media is doing its best to downplay the rule-breaking. Labour must be thanking their lucky stars…

At lunchtime, Guido posted Sir Keir’s detailed timeline, complete with photos and videos, up North in Hull and Durham:

At the end of the timeline, Guido reminded us of what Angela Rayner had said only a week earlier:

April 20, 2022: Angela Rayner is asked “If Keir Starmer, had been fined for the beer and sandwiches that he had or was perhaps it was just beer. Should he have resigned?” Rayner replies “If Keir Starmer had broken the law, then Yes.”

This was the Mail‘s front page on Saturday, April 30. It was a newsy day, especially with disgraced now-former Conservative MP Neil Parish:

That was also the first anniversary of the event in Durham:

The next day, the Mail on Sunday called Starmer a hypocrite, something a Sky News presenter quizzed him about (video here):

Keir Starmer avoided the BBC that morning. Instead, one of his MPs, David Lammy, went on to chat with Sophie Raworth (videos here and here). By now, the public were catching on that Labour had been obfuscating for nearly five months:

On Tuesday, May 3, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole reported that Starmer’s security detail from London’s Metropolitan Police were in Durham on the night in question. Hmm:

Cole wrote, in part:

Witnesses suggest dozens of MPs and aides gathered at Miners’ Hall, with the police car still there late into the evening.

One bystander who walked past at 11pm said: “The place was still lit up and busy and Keir’s car was still outside.”

The Sun has also revealed that £200 was spent on takeaway curry for dozens of MPs and aides at the bash.

That day, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn wrote that Starmer should be careful about his situation, given he has been running roughshod over Boris, clamouring constantly for his resignation:

Starmer called for both Johnson and Sunak to quit over their fixed penalty notices despite knowing that the full truth about his own campaign-trail gathering had not come out.

For starters, Labour said its deputy leader Angela Rayner was not at the event when she was. This according to Starmer was a simple ‘mistake’ made in good faith. But has he ever conceded Johnson could have made simple mistakes in good faith about what constituted unlawful gatherings? Of course not

Can Starmer be said to have ‘come clean’ about his own lockdown socialising? Hardly. He is still being evasive now about what exactly the ‘work’ was that his team supposedly returned to after beer and pizza had been consumed around 10 p.m. on a Friday night …

When Starmer was first questioned about beergate, back in January, he told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth: ‘If you’re trying to persuade anyone that stopping to have some food when you’re in the office all day working is a breach of the rules, it’s just not going to wash.’ Yet hasn’t such thinking been at the heart of his own relentless attacks on Johnson?

Starmer the lawyer may think he has winning answers to these questions. Were he a better politician, he would see immediately that he does not. He has been hoisted by his own petard and may soon crash land against some particularly unforgiving ramparts.

The Mail‘s Stephen Pollard also posted an editorial on Starmer. Pollard, by the way, is a member of the Labour Party. However, he abhors the hypocrisy of Starmer’s handling of the Durham event compared with his verbal harassment in the Commons of Boris and Rishi:

the holes in his story get bigger by the day. Sir Keir also says he had no choice but to eat with his colleagues because he couldn’t get a meal at the hotel he was staying in.

The Mail has shown this is nonsense – the hotel made a point of offering room service for law-abiding guests who were following the rules by eating alone in their room. Sir Keir could remove all doubt about the truth of his story if he gave a full account of what happened backed up by evidence. In the absence of such evidence, however, it looks to be no more and no less than a social meal and a drink with colleagues after work – and so not remotely ‘necessary’. In other words, illegal under the Tier 2 rules.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was fined for turning up to a scheduled work meeting in the Cabinet room to find that a gathering was taking place, and not walking out. For that, Labour demanded his resignation. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Sir Keir plainly thinks he can keep saying nothing and the fuss will die down. But the one thing voters cannot stomach is a politician who lies – so Sir Keir needs to come clean. It is difficult to imagine why he would let this story fester if he really has done nothing wrong and can prove it by answering questions, so it may well be he is covering up his own lawbreaking.

If that is the case then – on his own merciless standards – surely he must resign.

Or does he believe that the rules don’t apply to him?

Also on that day, we found out who took the videos and photos of the Durham event — students at Durham University. The Mail reported that the Met’s vehicle piqued their curiosity:

Students who filmed the Labour leader drinking in the office of one of his MPs while indoor socialising was banned also photographed an unfamiliar black Land Rover Discovery parked outside.

If it was one of the official police protection vehicles issued to Sir Keir in his role as a senior politician, it would raise the prospect that officers guarding him can help definitively solve the questions which continue to swirl around the night’s events.

One of the students who filmed the gathering at Durham Miners Hall on April 30 last year said: ‘We had never seen a black Land Rover parked there before, it really stuck out. We took a picture of it because we were convinced it was the car in which he had been driven there.’

Last night a Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on protection matters.’ Labour did not respond to requests for comment.

Former Scotland Yard Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was previously forced to defend officers on duty in Whitehall as questions were raised on how potentially lockdown-breaching gatherings were able to take place at a site with a heavy police presence.

Speaking in February, she said the officers were there to provide ‘protective security’ but refused to be drawn on ‘anything they may have seen or heard’.

The Leader of the Opposition is one of a small number of senior politicians given round-the-clock protection by police

Officers would know everywhere the ‘principal’ is going during a visit and have a rough idea of timings, a source said last night.

The Mail did not name the students, but Guido knew who one of them was back in January 2022:

On January 18, Guido revealed the student’s identity once the images of the Durham event had reached The Sun, The Telegraph and The Mail:

… the person who snapped the incriminating footage – James Delingpole’s son, Ivo – is just as angry with the Tories as anyone else. Taking to Instagram yesterday he reacted to the Mail’s splash with pleasant surprise:

Bit strange to have a video I filmed… on the front cover of a newspaper. I didn’t make any money from it and didn’t send it to them, but glad the hypocrisy was outed nonetheless

However he followed up:

It was last year and just outside my university house… I hope this in no way helps the Prime Minister defend himself from critics, and that he gets no respite from the questioning and criticism [he] deserves …

But even that splash in three newspapers didn’t stop Starmer. In fact, he doubled down, as we can see in this tweet from January 31:

Returning to last week, Wednesday, May 4, the day before the election, the Mail had the following front page on the seventh day of Beergate. Someone should write a song …

Starmer appeared on ITV1’s Good Morning Britain that day. Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley interviewed him. Things did not go spectacularly well, even if Reid is left-of-centre politically:

Guido had the story and video:

For the seventh consecutive day, Starmer is battling the headlines over Beergate. This morning the Sun reports Starmer and Labour aides spent £200 on takeaway food on the night the infamous photo was taken – enough curry to feed 30 people for what Labour still insists was just a quick meal during important campaign work. That line is becoming increasingly untenable, as Starmer’s appearance just now on Good Morning Britain attests…

Speaking to Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley, Starmer trotted out the boilerplate excuses Labour have been using for a week, much of which was irrelevant waffle about how many camera pieces he recorded that day. Not once did he deny reports it turned into a £200, 30-person feast …

He recorded some video messages on a laptop – doesn’t require 30 people, beer and curry late on a Friday night to do that. When Susanna Reid asked why any of this was actually relevant, Starmer claimed:

We were on the road, at the end of the day, we were in the office preparing. Now, that evening, from memory, we were doing an online event for members… at some point, this was in the evening, everyone is hungry. A takeaway was ordered… in Durham all restaurants and pubs were closed.

Of course, that last part is untrue: hospitality reopened for outdoor service on April 12, and the Durham event took place on April 30. Still, at least Starmer confirmed the police haven’t been in touch yet, something he couldn’t say yesterday for some reason. If Starmer’s finding all this scrutiny unnecessary, Guido would just remind him he called for Rishi to resign last month for singing ‘happy birthday’. Or was that just pointless mudslinging?

Guido’s tweet about Good Morning Britain had a response about why Labour might not have wanted to put Angela Rayner in the frame until they were forced to:

That day, the Mail‘s Andrew Pierce looked at the possible people helping Starmer obfuscate. We already know about Mary Foy MP and I covered Joy Allen, the head of Durham Constabulary, in a previous post. She was not at the event.

The others follow — Allen’s deputy, the curry house and the other Labour MP for Durham:

PCC Allen’s second-in-command is Nigel Bryson, who happens to be a long-standing friend of hers. They met, inevitably, through the Labour Party and she has attracted criticism for appointing him without advertising. Challenged over this failure to vet anyone else, she said: ‘I’ve got somebody who knows everything about me as a candidate… I could go through the process but it would just be possibly going through the motions.’ So that’s all right then.

The Capital is one of Durham’s finest Indian restaurants and this week it emerged its delivery driver had dropped off a ‘£200’ feast for the gathering, including biryanis, tikka masalas, rice and naan breads. The driver initially told the Daily Mail there were ’30 or so people’ inside – but bizarrely later insisted he had no recollection of making the delivery.

Yet the curry house has been known to have friendly relations with Durham’s Labour machine.

In May 2020, during the first lockdown, local MP Foy hailed it for supplying meals to NHS workers and posed for photographs with head chef Syed Islam.

Bordering Foy’s constituency is North Durham, with MP Kevan Jones. He has also remained silent about the night in question – and this isn’t surprising.

A leading figure in the local Labour community, Jones himself has broken lockdown laws – not once, but twice. The first breach came on May 7, 2020, when he took part in a group photo shoot in his constituency, promoting artwork in praise of the NHS. A noble cause – but the rules about socialising were clear. Jones committed another breach three days later.

A video shows him attending an indoor party for 100-year-old veteran Frederick Herron, allegedly attended by about 40 people. Who would begrudge a hero centenarian a fitting celebration? Nobody – except Starmer and Labour have consistently claimed that the law should have been upheld.

Asked yesterday about his lockdown breaches, Jones said he would ‘rather not comment’.

The plot thickened and the intrigue continued.

More tomorrow, beginning with what the papers said on Election Day.

Continuing my series on Red Wall MPs, today’s concludes the Stoke-on-Trent trio with Jack Brereton, who was the first Conservative MP elected to represent Stoke-on-Trent South in 2017.

Brereton’s two neighbouring Conservative MPs are Jo Gideon and Jonathan Gullis.

Brereton is 30 years old but got involved in politics at the tender age of 18. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for councillor in the East Valley ward in the Stoke-on-Trent City Council election. Undeterred, and studying for his degree in Politics and International Relations at the local Keele University, he ran again in 2011 and held the Baddeley, Milton and Norton ward for the Conservatives.

He completed his degree at Keele in 2012 and was re-elected as councillor in 2015, after which he served on the local Regeneration, Heritage and Transport committee on the City Council as part of a Conservative/Independents ruling coalition.

In February 2017, he ran unsuccessfully in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. However, a snap general election was called that June, under Theresa May’s leadership, and the Conservatives selected him to run for Stoke-on-Trent South.

Brereton defeated Labour’s sitting MP Rob Flello, who had represented the constituency since 2005. Aged 26, he was the youngest MP in the 2017 Conservative intake.

He continued to serve as a local councillor until June 2019, when he announced that he would not be standing for re-election.

In Parliament, Brereton served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department of Education in 2018. Between September 2019 and January 31, 2020, he was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Exiting the European Union. Afterwards, he became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence.

From this, we can see that he has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for politics and for his constituents, most of whom voted to leave the EU.

He has also found time to study at University College London and divides his time between the capital and Stoke-on-Trent, where his wife and son live.

Maiden speech

The most interesting speeches in the Commons are the maiden speeches. One learns so much about our beautiful nation from them.

Jack Brereton gave his maiden speech on July 18, 2017. That day, the Stoke Sentinel reported (emphases mine):

Jack Brereton’s win in Stoke-on-Trent South last month, which ended decades of Labour domination, was one of the most notable results in the General Election.

Indeed. Stoke-on-Trent South voters had been loyal to Labour since the constituency was established in 1950.

He showed his love for his home town and the Potteries in his maiden speech, excerpted below:

It is an absolute honour to be able to make my maiden speech and to represent the people of Stoke-on-Trent South in this place. Stoke-on-Trent is the city that I grew up in and where I have lived my whole life. Nothing could make me prouder than serving the people of Stoke-on-Trent South in Parliament.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr Rob Flello. I thank him for his commitment to Stoke-on-Trent South over the past 12 years. He will be remembered as a dedicated community activist in Stoke-on-Trent and was respected here for his campaigning on a number of national concerns, particularly those relating to the road haulage industry, in which he played an active role.

Stoke-on-Trent is a unique place with a strong cultural identity. It is a city founded on its industrial heritage, with those industries now resurgent and a hotbed of innovation. The potteries were born out of industry and our culture flows from that

Stokies are especially known for their friendliness, and many visitors to the city remark on how welcoming the local people are. What makes us most distinctive, however, is our geographical make-up, following the coming together in 1910 of six different, individual towns to form one body. Two of those towns, Fenton and Longton, are in my constituency. However, we did not gain city status until 1925, in what was a rare modern occurrence of royal intervention in which the monarch countermanded the Government. Having initially been refused city status by the Home Office, Stoke-on-Trent made a direct approach to His Majesty King George V and became a city on 4 June 1925.

Surrounding the pottery towns of Fenton and Longton, my Stoke-on-Trent South constituency includes a diverse slice of north Staffordshire. We have the only grade 1 listed building in Stoke-on-Trent, the Trentham Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of the Dukes of Sutherland. They were significant philanthropists in the area, particularly in Longton, Normacot and Dresden, giving land and paying for many of the important public buildings and facilities that we see today. They include the fantastic Queen’s Park, the first public pleasure park in the potteries, which was opened to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. It was once a lone oasis in an otherwise smog-filled urban area, but today we are one of the greenest cities in the country, with more than 1,380 hectares of parks and open space. One of the most important natural sites, Park Hall country park, is in Weston Coyney in my constituency. It is a site of special scientific interest and the only national nature reserve in Stoke-on-Trent.

Where once stood thousands of bottle ovens in Stoke-on-Trent, only 47 now remain. They are protected, of course, and I am pleased to say that half of those iconic structures are in my constituency, with the largest number in Longton. My constituency has no shortage of first-rate architectural gems, both old and new. Many of these important historical sites have now been converted, with a number becoming enterprise centres to host thriving small businesses. They include the Sutherland Institute, St James’s House, CoRE and now also Fenton Town Hall, which has been reborn as a centre for business and industry by the grandson of the original builder and benefactor, William Meath Baker. There is a tremendous spirit of resourcefulness and renewal in my constituency, and it gives me great optimism that so many of our heritage landmarks will continue to find new uses in a new age

Stoke-on-Trent has been a global city, designing wares and products to fit every taste and market. We have been exporting and trading products around the world for centuries, and that has never been more true and important than it is today. We have some of the most advanced steel manufacturing in the world. Just like pottery, steel manufacturing has strong roots in Stoke-on-Trent. Goodwin International, which is based in my constituency, is a world leader in mechanical engineering, producing some of the most intricate steel components, both large and small. It works in partnership with Goodwin Steel Castings in neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent Central, which has been producing machined castings since 1883—one of the 10 oldest companies listed on the stock exchange. Goodwin’s products are of the highest standard and are used right around the world in energy production, bridge construction and armed forces equipment.

Today in Stoke-on-Trent our industries are becoming more diverse and more innovative than ever before. Rated nationally as the second-best place to start a new business, it is the No. 1 city for business survival and the ninth-fastest growing economy in the UK. Productivity has increased by over 25% since 2010. It is ranked fourth for employment growth and has one of the fastest-growing housing markets, and our big ceramics businesses have increased production by over 50%.

People are waking up to what Stoke-on-Trent has to offer as one of the best connected places. We have kept ahead of the digital curve with some of the best broadband connectivity, and we are rated as having the best 4G download speeds in the country, not only making Stoke-on-Trent a key hub for some of the leading brands in distribution and logistics, but putting the city at the forefront of a revolution in digital and advanced manufacturing.

Our clay-based industries in particular have become more diverse and are expanding into new sectors. Whether healthcare, tourism, high-tech materials or construction, ceramic products are becoming ever more essential in the modern world. That has been exemplified by recent investment in the Wedgwood factory and visitor centre in my constituency. The fully refurbished factory site manufactures some of the finest wares in the world, and the World of Wedgwood visitor centre is a must see for any tourist. Most recently, we have seen the opening of the brand-new Valentine Clays facility in Fenton, which is continuing the growth of the industry and supplying clay and raw materials to potters around the country.

Our growing economy and industry are supported by strong academic institutions. Staffordshire University is now rated one of the best nationally for some of its digital courses, such as gaming. We also have Keele University—I should declare an interest in that my wife and I are both Keele graduates—which is renowned nationally for its academic strength and has won numerous awards for the quality of its academia, including being ranked top nationally for student experience and student satisfaction and most recently being awarded gold in the teaching excellence framework. Importantly, the universities play an active part in the community and economy of north Staffordshire and have a critical role in the innovation and development of our local industries.

The businesses and people who have invested in Stoke-on-Trent South are rightly proud of what we have achieved. As their strong voice in Parliament, I am determined to work to create better jobs that will spread the net of opportunity wider. Critical to that will be securing the best possible deal from leaving the European Union, guaranteeing trade and ensuring ease of access to markets throughout the world. That is what people in Stoke-on-Trent South overwhelmingly voted for in the referendum and what people were saying to me on the doorstep during the general election campaign. I will be calling on the Government to advance trade agreements around the world as part of a more global Britain that supports businesses in Stoke-on-Trent South to sell their products abroad. This is about creating prosperity for every household in Stoke-on-Trent South, driving up skills and increasing local people’s wages. We need to see not just more jobs in Stoke-on-Trent South but better jobs that pay higher wages and take full advantage of the talent that Stokies have.

We need to see investment in our infrastructure that ensures businesses in Stoke-on-Trent can continue to thrive and local people are not blighted by sitting in daily traffic jams. It will mean improving our transport network to be fit for the future, improving rail and road connections to my constituency to help address congestion and ensuring that we see better local rail services to Longton station and improved connectivity to Stoke-on-Trent from across the country.

For our industries to grow and create the jobs we need locally, we must also ensure greater energy security, with infrastructure that matches the needs of our manufacturing sectors. As a city made up of towns, we need to ensure that our town centres are healthy and that our high streets remain relevant to the local communities they serve. I want to see Longton and Fenton town centres become stronger, with new housing and businesses moving in. Those are my priorities as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South.

I began by speaking of our heritage and culture in Stoke-on-Trent. I could not be more delighted that our city has been shortlisted for UK city of culture 2021. Stoke-on-Trent is the world capital of ceramics, which is an industry and art that has not only shaped my constituency but has left its stamp on our national culture. Many Stokies, like me, are proud of the products we see around the world that are back-stamped “Made in Stoke-on-Trent” and “Made in Britain.” A Stokie can often be spotted apart turning over a plate or a mug to check where it was made.

The Palace of Westminster, like many of the greatest buildings across the country, is filled with products manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent. From the tableware to the Minton tile floors, each piece is an ambassador for Stoke-on-Trent. I was a little disappointed to find that the ongoing floor restoration works in Central Lobby are using tiles manufactured in Jackfield, Shropshire. However, I was reassured to discover that the powder used to produce these fantastic tiles is sourced from Stoke-on-Trent

This debate is about drugs policy. The use of psychoactive substances in particular is increasing, which is ruining lives and is a significant cause of crime on our streets. That not only affects police services but puts pressure on our national health service, which has to deal with much of the human cost of drug abuse.

Far too many ordinary people in my constituency have felt the impacts of drug use and told me they do not feel safe in our communities. I will be working with Staffordshire police and Matthew Ellis, our police and crime commissioner, to ensure that we continue to see drug use decline and we act against the associated crimes. Much progress is being made by local partners and communities; putting in place a public space protection order in Longton has made a big difference. I have particularly seen the fantastic work put in by volunteers such as Street Chaplains locally in my constituency. Significant work has been done to help ensure people feel safe and welcome when visiting the town centre, and in directing people who need help to get the right support.

Often the misuse of drugs can be linked to mental health problems, and I have been pleased to see Staffordshire leading the way to ensure that people with mental health problems get better support. Local services, the police and the voluntary sector continue to work more closely in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire to help people get better support to tackle addictions and change their lifestyles. I want to play my part in ensuring that we continue to tackle these issues in our communities, so we continue to see drug-related crimes reduced and people with addictions get the right support.

In the end, Coventry won the 2021 bid for the UK City of Culture.

However, Brereton remained a strong supporter of Stoke-on-Trent.

Channel 4 relocation

On October 17, 2017, Brereton put forward a Ten-Minute Rule Bill proposing that Channel 4 move their offices out of London, in the way that the BBC moved many of their operations north to Salford.

Excerpts follow:

Being in public ownership means that Channel 4 has a responsibility to the nation, not just in the innovative and boundary-probing programming that it rightly produces, but in the way in which it is organised and run. Truly, it must be operated for the benefit of all parts of our country, throughout all the nations and regions that make up the UK. We should consider the effects of the BBC’s relocation to Salford Quays, with the creation of MediaCityUK. The regeneration that comes from such investments has a much wider ripple effect beyond the transfer of the headquarters, staff and offices. With the right location, such moves can significantly boost prosperity across a whole region and help support thousands of jobs. As the Secretary of State said at the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week, more people are employed at Salford Quays today than there ever were when they were docks. That is a direct effect of a public service broadcaster fulfilling its remit in its most inclusive sense.

Channel 4 could have a significant transformative impact on a new location, with the potential to anchor wider regeneration and deliver jobs over and above those which move out of the capital. Very careful consideration must be given to location in order to maximise and extract value. There could be an open competition to decide on the new location, allowing interested areas and sites to put forward their case, ensuring that the site that delivers the greatest impact and fulfils the needs of Channel 4 is selected. This is not just about the benefits a move could have on a specific area; many organisations could have a similar impact from relocating their headquarters. There is greater significance in and much wider benefits from helping to rebalance the institutions of broadcasting within the UK to reflect much more effectively the diverse communities in our constituencies across the country, and to bring a fresh perspective.

The realities faced on a daily basis by my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South and those in many constituencies throughout the UK are very different from those experienced in London. As I said, Channel 4 produces some phenomenal programmes that are greatly valued, but this could be so much better. If Channel 4 relocated out of London, the organisation and its employees would experience directly the true vibrancy and diversity across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. The programmes it produces could be drawn from a much more diverse palette, giving a much greater scope, depth and quality to what we see on our screens.

As a commissioning organisation, Channel 4 has huge potential to support the wider broadcasting and creative sectors across the countries and regions of the UK. Many small and medium-sized businesses right across the country could contribute significantly to diversifying the content produced by Channel 4, but currently all the decisions are made in London and many companies and organisations are not getting a fair chance. A move would have much greater knock-on benefits across the industry, helping to support and create more highly skilled jobs outside London. Location is hugely important not only to extract the greatest benefit from our media, but to ensure that there are the skills available in the workforce to match the demands of the organisation.

There are a number of extremely interesting suggestions for a potential future location for this national broadcaster. They come from a number of areas across the country, including from my area, Stoke-on-Trent. Many parts of our country have the wealth of skills and creativity— both in industry and academia—needed to support the relocation. I know from visiting Staffordshire University that our academic institutions across the country have state-of-the-art digital and media facilities. For example, Staffordshire University is now rated the best in the country for computer gaming.

Industries and universities right across the country are leading the way in the digital and creative sectors. The move of Channel 4 out of London would further support this success and mean that more of those skills could be retained in other parts of the UK. This is the critical point: we are currently seeing a brain drain of skills and employment opportunities from across our country towards London. The Bill aligns with the Government’s industrial strategy to help to rebalance the economy, driving prosperity right across the country. I hope that all hon. Members can support that aim.

The further benefit that a move could realise is to counteract the consequences of an overheating property market in London. Land is much cheaper and more freely available outside London, particularly in areas like mine, meaning that the costs of development and moving have the potential with the right location to be significantly lower. Much of the cost of the move could probably be made back from the sale of Channel 4’s current headquarters site on Horseferry Road.

The cost of property also has an important effect on the likely quality of life of those working for Channel 4. Outside London, workers are likely to be able to afford a much better quality of life. The average house price in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency in quarter 1 of 2017 was £1,275,000 compared with £122,150 in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent South. The Bill does not specify a location to which Channel 4 should move, but it secures the principle of a move away from London and would allow for the process in selecting a new location and facilitating the move once a location is agreed.

I encourage Members on both sides of the House to back this Bill and ensure that Channel 4 can continue to improve the quality and range of its broadcasting to reflect the entire UK.

Question put and agreed to

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 October 2018, and to be printed (Bill 111).

The bill was successful. One year later, on October 31, 2018, Channel 4 announced that it would be moving 25% of its staff to Leeds, meaning that half of its programme budget will be spent outside of London by 2023.

Transport

It is not surprising that having served on the local Regeneration, Heritage and Transport committee on the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Jack Brereton has a keen interest in improving public transportation links in his constituency.

One of the ongoing issues is the reopening of the Stoke-Leek railway line, more about which below.

First, however, was his debate from January 23, 2020 on improving local bus routes, excerpted below:

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and I made clear to the Minister’s colleague Baroness Vere recently, bus services are too few, too slow and too infrequent. Indeed, a survey I conducted in a number of communities in my constituency resulted in many hundreds of replies saying just that. We now have communities that lack any service, with elderly and vulnerable people left cut off. The removal of evening and weekend services has also had a major impact on people’s ability to get to work and get around the area.

At the same time, local train services—they are almost non-existent and are often overcrowded—have been under a slow process of decline. Little more than 100 years ago, north Staffordshire had an excellent local rail and tram network. Old maps reveal that we had one of the most comprehensive public transport networks in the country. Since then, local rail lines and local train stations have been lost. The tram network has gone altogether and the bus has risen and fallen as a replacement. It is on bus services that I will focus most of my remarks today …

The six historic market towns in Stoke-on-Trent share a north Staffordshire identity that is more than merely geographical with the other historic market towns around the city, including Newcastle-under-Lyme, Kidsgrove, Biddulph, Leek, Cheadle, Stone and Stafford, which are home to many commuters to and from Stoke-on-Trent. Improving and enhancing the public transport links between all those towns is important for our economic growth. Sadly, bus use in the Potteries has declined by more than 10% in the past year alone, with more than 1 million fewer bus passenger journeys in 2018-19 than in 2017-18. The number of journeys fell from 10.4 million in 2017-18 to 9.3 million. Compounding the disappointment is the fact that bus use had at least seemed to have levelled off from the previous decline. The 10.4 million journeys reported in 2017-18 were an increase on the 10.3 million reported in 2016-17. However, at the start of the decade, more than 15 million journeys were recorded.

Since 2010, the relative cost of travelling by car has decreased considerably. Fuel duty has rightly been frozen and even for those who are entitled to free bus passes, the falling marginal cost of driving has disadvantaged bus services in relative terms. Relative price signals have often been compounded by the enhanced marginal utility of driving instead, particularly as cars have improved in personal comfort over the decade relative to buses. Once a decline in bus services begins, it all too often feeds on itself as the relative convenience of just jumping in a car becomes ever more pronounced. Against a backdrop of less frequent bus services, passenger utility is reduced even further. With the reduction in demand comes more cuts in supply.

In north Staffordshire, journey times by bus can be more than double those by car—sometimes easily treble or worse—due to the loss of direct cross-city routes. No doubt that story is familiar to Members in all parts of the country. I have raised the situation in north Staffordshire in particular because, as our local newspaper The Sentinel has highlighted, the decline in the Potteries has been much faster than in England as a whole

Currently, very few buses run straight through the city centre, meaning that almost all passengers face waiting times for connecting services at the city centre bus station if they want to get from one side of the city to the other. Operators have been reluctant to provide through services, because it is much harder to guarantee their reliability. That, in turn, adds to the congestion at the city centre bus station, with two short-route buses needed to complete what could have been a single-bus through journey.

The required interventions are a mix of low, medium and high-cost schemes, ranging from relatively simple traffic management measures, such as the widening of bus lanes, to more complicated redesigns of junctions to give buses priority. As an initial step, three cross-city routes are being developed, but a number of additional cross-city routes have also been identified to create a truly north Staffordshire-wide network …

The second key element is improved frequency. A turn-up-and-go service requires a frequency that does not exceed 10 minutes between buses. Even that frequency would be regarded as poor in London. A 10-minute interval is considered to be one of the downsides of some parts of the Docklands Light Railway, and it certainly would not be tolerated on the London underground. Yet in Stoke-on-Trent a 10-minute frequency is exceptionally good; currently, only four bus services operate at that frequency. The frequency of other services is generally 20 or 30 minutes.

Introducing all the proposed cross-city lines with a weekday daytime frequency of at most 10 minutes would cost some £4.8 million per annum. There would be a further capital cost of £1 million for purchasing additional vehicles. It is important to note that in certain important corridors in the city, such as between the railway station and the city centre, frequencies would be much closer to five minutes than to 10 minutes, with the exception of early mornings, night-times and Sundays …

There are other, smaller operators, which run a limited number of services, mostly using buses smaller than the standard single-decker ones prevalent in the First Potteries and D&G fleets. The current operators run a multi-operator ticket scheme. One such ticket is called Smart, which is focused on Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, and another is called The Knot—after the Staffordshire knot—covering the whole of Staffordshire. There is also a PlusBus scheme covering the Smart zone.

That brings me on to the third key element: the price cap. The current standard adult fare for one of the most popular tickets, the Smart day ticket, is £5.90, and the proposal is to cap it at £3 per day, resulting in a ceteris paribus revenue loss of £3 million per annum. However, it is, of course, expected that all things will not be equal, and the price cap, together with congestion-busting road traffic management for bus services, should result in a substantial increase in ticket sales.

Indeed, the uplift is expected to be such that the city council has warned that operators will need to be prepared for boarding delays caused by the volume of people wanting to buy the £3 day ticket. That would have been much more of a concern only a year ago, when contactless payment was still far from widespread across north Staffordshire buses. Thankfully, operators have now invested in contactless technology that speeds up the boarding process

Let me be quite clear: what is envisioned is nothing short of a revolution for road traffic planning in Stoke-on-Trent, with a radical reordering of highway space and junction prioritisation in favour of buses. By removing the worst pinch points and installing bus priority measures, we can improve passengers’ level of confidence that buses will run smoothly and to time. The measures envisaged would mean that timetables could provide for faster services running over longer distances across north Staffordshire. We would once again be able to boast one of the best and most comprehensive public transport networks, just as we did over a century ago. I hope we will receive the Department’s full support, and the Minister’s support today.

Nusrat Ghani, replying on behalf of the Government, said:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher [Chope MP], in this incredibly collegiate and productive debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) for securing it and giving me the opportunity to provide some answers that will please both Government and Opposition Members …

When I appeared before the Select Committee on Transport a while ago, my hon. Friend was robust in challenging me on bus strategy. However, he and I wanted the same thing, and we have got it—we have a win here. First, we have had the announcement of an ambitious and innovative £220 million bus package and, secondly, we are putting together the first ever national bus strategy, which will revolutionise bus services across England

Members are keen to ensure that they are doing their bit to secure funding from the transforming cities fund. The Government are investing £2.5 billion to support the development and creation of new and innovative public transport schemes, which will improve journeys and tackle congestion in some of England’s largest cities. Stoke-on-Trent has been shortlisted for an upgrade to its public transport links. The speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) was spot on; she put forward a fantastic case. At the Department we welcome the business case put forward by Stoke-on-Trent and supported by hon. Members. It will improve connectivity across the region. I am afraid I cannot say anything more right now, but an announcement on the outcome of the process will be announced in the next few months. The strength of this debate will no doubt be recognised when that decision is made …

Thanks to the Stoke-on-Trent MPs’ pressure, the latest news from the Stoke Sentinel on April 6, 2022 is that bus pass prices will be noticeably cheaper and that some routes will cut across the city:

Stoke-on-Trent bus passengers will be able to snap up all-day tickets for just £3.50 as part of a £31.7 million Government deal for the city. People currently have to shell out £5.20 for unlimited day travel within the city.

The cheaper fare – available across multiple bus operators – is expected to come into force in September. It’s not yet known whether other types of bus tickets could also be discounted.

It comes after the Department for Transport (DfT) awarded Stoke-on-Trent the funding to transform bus services over the next three years. Other plans include having more evening and Sunday services to boost the night-time economy and help commuters get home from work.

And a bus route which was split in two several years ago is to be ‘re-linked’ so people travelling from the north to south of the city no longer have to catch several buses. Coupled with bus priority changes, it will mean quicker journey times.

Nigel Eggleton, managing director of bus operator First Potteries, said: “We are delighted with the announcement. Ourselves, other bus operators and Stoke-on-Trent City Council have put in a lot of work compiling this bid.”

He hopes it will attract more people onto the buses and make some of the changes commercially sustainable after the Government funding runs out. But he admitted there could be ‘anomalies’, particularly if people are travelling outside the city boundaries into Newcastle or the Moorlands.

Staffordshire County Council has not been awarded a single penny through the DfT’s latest announcement, even though it submitted a bid for £112 million of bus service improvements.

Mr Eggleton added: “We will need to look closely at the terms and conditions to see what we can and can’t do across boundary journeys. But we will try our best.”

The 113 comments following the article were highly critical of the bus company and bus routes.

Now on to the Stoke-Leek railway line, debated on July 20, 2021 which was secured by Karen Bradley, the Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands. All three Stoke-on-Trent MPs took part.

Maggie Throup MP, responding for the Government, said:

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) on securing this debate on the proposals for reopening the Stoke-Leek line—or, as she said, the Leek-Stoke line. I thank all Members who contributed. My right hon. Friend is a committed advocate of this scheme, alongside my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon), who have spoken passionately with one voice in today’s debate. Their collective campaigning to reinstate the Stoke-Leek line is second to none. I am sure the description that my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands gave of her constituency will definitely have put it at the top of the tourist map for those who are listening to the debate. I also pay tribute to all right hon. and hon. Members who have sponsored applications to restore rail lines and stations in their own constituencies. I know just how much these schemes mean for local communities. Those Members are great advocates for the restoration of their railways.

This Government are committed to levelling up the country, and a strong, effective railway is central to that ambition. As part of that levelling-up agenda, in January 2020 the Government pledged £500 million for the Restoring Your Railways programme to deliver on our manifesto commitment to start reopening lines and stations. This investment will reconnect smaller communities, regenerate local economies and improve access to jobs, homes and education. The Beeching report led to the closure of one third of our railway network—2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of track were identified for closure. Many places that lost their railway connection have simply never recovered. For the towns and villages left isolated and forgotten by the Beeching cuts, restoring a railway line or station has the potential to revitalise the community. It breathes new life into our high streets, drives investment in businesses and housing and opens new opportunities for work and education. Ilkeston station, in my constituency, which reopened in 2017 after more than 50 years of closure, is a proven example of this positive impact …

As my right hon. Friend explained, the proposal details the many benefits that restoring the Stoke-Leek line would bring to the area—she was so graphic earlier about all the benefits—including providing residents of Leek with direct access to education and employment opportunities in Stoke-on-Trent and the opening up of Staffordshire Moorlands to the tourist trade. The assessment process for those bids is currently under way. The Department expects to announce outcomes over the summer. Decisions on bids are made by an expert panel, which the rail Minister chairs. It is informed by analysis from the Department for Transport, technical advisers and Network Rail. The standard of the applications is, as ever, very high.

In nearby Meir, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, a proposal to reopen the railway station has already been successful in the ideas fund. This scheme used the funding awarded to create a strategic outline business case, which the Department will be considering soon. If delivered, the scheme would reconnect the people of Meir to the rail network for the first time since 1966, giving them access to new educational and economic opportunities, making new housing developments in certain areas viable and levelling up a region that suffers from poor productivity relative to the rest of the UK …

Beeching destroyed the railway network in the mid-1960s. It will take a long time, if ever, to restore it.

With regard to the Stoke-Leek line, £50,000 was granted on October 27, 2001 for a feasibility study. One can only hope for its success.

No doubt, Jack Brereton will continue to press ahead with these and other local issues with his usual passion and enthusiasm.

I wish him every success in his parliamentary career. He richly deserves it.

Considering that Parliament is currently prorogued and that this past weekend was the May bank holiday, one would think that nothing political happened.

One would be very wrong indeed.

In fact, a Conservative MP stood down and Labour’s indoor 2021 election campaign meeting in Durham attracted more attention.

Labour’s 2021 do in Durham

My April 29 post has the background to Labour’s 2021 election campaign do in Durham.

April 30 was its one year anniversary:

I couldn’t agree more.

The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges agrees on Labour’s hypocrisy:

Many Labour supporters say that the Durham do did not break any rules, however, it probably did. Below are the rules for the 2021 election campaign:

Furthermore, it is possible that, despite the fines (fixed penalty notices), the Downing Street gatherings did not break the rules, as the address is part of the Crown Estates.

On April 27, the Conservative Post published an article on the lefty activist QC (Queen’s Counsel) advising senior civil servant Sue Gray in her report on the gatherings. The article says that they were perfectly legal (emphases in the original):

One might ask is this QC holding an almighty grudge?

Is this why Sue Gray / the Met Police haven’t looked at section 73 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984? Do they even know about it?

Surely a bipartisan advisor would have pointed out this important law of the land?

The Act clearly states that pandemic regulations, at all times, never applied to Crown Land (which includes No.10). 

Granted, one rule for them and another for the rest of us seems a bit unfair but it also makes sense.

Steven Barrett, a leading barrister at Radcliffe Chambers who read law at Oxford and taught law at Cambridge explains:

In the eighties lawmakers decided that it would be better to allow the government to function during any future national pandemic without having to worry about being caught up in quarantine regulations. The thinking was that by making the government effectively exempt in law, the government could continue to function.

In addition to the 1984 Act, there were also specific regulations that applied at the time of the alleged “parties” the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.

According to these rules, gatherings were allowed in all public buildings, or parts of them ‘operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.’

So whatever happened in Downing Street was legal. 

How has a QC / Civil Service Advisor not made this clear to Sue Gray? If he had surely no-one at Downing Street would have received a fine at all.  

One would also have thought the Civil Service would check who is advising them.

Can someone let Sue Gray and the Met Police know please before any more incorrect fines are issued out? It’s important rules of the land are adhered to. 

But, butand it’s a BIG BUT:

The matter came up in the House of Lords on December 14, 2021, shortly after the controversy broke. Good grief, that is now six months ago.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Jenny Jones, Green Party) asked:

whether Number 10 Downing Street is a Crown property; and, if so, whether regulations made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 apply there.

Lord True, replying for the Cabinet Office, said that the regulations would have applied to Downing Street, despite its being part of the Crown Estates (emphases mine below, except for Guido Fawkes posts):

No 10 Downing Street is a Crown property. Regulations under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 which relate to the activities of people, apply regardless of whether those activities took place on Crown property or not.

Hmm.

Back to Labour’s Durham do, which has been trending online as Beergate and Currygate:

Durham Constabulary said a long time ago that there was nothing to investigate. Durham is a Labour area, so no surprise there.

However, the clamour over the weekend thanks to Conservative MP Richard Holden’s letter to them was such that perhaps the police have decided to have another look.

On Tuesday, May 3, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Martha Kearney, Keir Starmer refused to say (audio here):

This leads pundits to assume that Durham Constabulary might have been in touch:

Another development over the weekend was confirmation that Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, was also in attendance.

Guido Fawkes posted the following on Friday, April 29:

After months of questioning, it can finally be confirmed Angela Rayner was present at Starmer’s lockdown beer party in Durham. Despite refusals to confirm, video evidence dug out yesterday morning reveals Angie’s attendance, who shared a chair with Sir Keir for a “Get out the vote rally”  on Facebook an hour before the video of Starmer’s unlawful socialising was filmed. Oh. Dear.

Rayner can be heard saying “And being here at the Miners Hall in Durham, I’ve got to start with, you know, the past we inherit, the future we build.” She and Starmer sit in front of a window identical to that Starmer was filmed through an hour later swigging beer, contrary to Covid rules.

Earlier this week, Guido forced a denial from local Police & Crime Commissioner Joy Allen, who said she wasn’t present at the ‘essential campaign event’ after social media rumours began circulating that the female head seen at the bottom of the Starmer beer frame was hers.

Labour claim that there was no other place to go for food and drink, however:

Also:

On Sunday evening, May 1, Mark Dolan of GB News rightly took aim at Labour’s sanctimonious and hypocritical posturing:

However, things weren’t going well for the Conservatives, either.

Neil Parish stands down as MP

Neil Parish stood down as MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon after admitting he was looking at indecent images on his phone while in the Palace of Westminster.

He claimed that he had been searching for tractors on the first occasion and accidentally arrived at an indecent website. On the second occasion, he confessed that he deliberately visited the same website again.

I was somewhere between surprised and shocked. He always seemed like such a level-headed individual.

This video clip is from March 14, 2019, around the time I began watching BBC Parliament regularly. Tension about Brexit had been ramping up since January that year:

In June 2020, he led a debate on the BBC’s axeing of local and regional political coverage:

More importantly, he had headed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee since 2015. He came from a farming family and left school at the age of 16 to help run his family’s farm.

Last week, rumours had been circulating about a Conservative MP looking at indecent images during parliamentary proceedings.

On Friday, April 29, Guido reported that the Conservatives removed the whip from Parish:

The hunt is over: Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, has lost the whip this afternoon after being revealed as the Commons’ mystery porn viewer. Following conversations with the Whips’ office today, Parish has reported himself to the Standards Committee of the House of Commons for investigation. The Tories had previously referred the claims to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, so Parish is now under investigation by both bodies…

A spokesperson from the Chief Whip’s office said:

Having spoken to the Chief Whip this afternoon, Neil Parish MP is reporting himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Mr Parish has been suspended from the Conservative Whip pending the outcome of that investigation.

Guido included an interview Parish had given to GB News that afternoon. It was clear Parish had no intentions of resigning at that time:

I think the whips’ office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result… I think you’ve got some 650 Members of Parliament in what is a very intense area, you are going to get people that step over the line. I don’t think there’s necessarily a huge culture here, but I think it does have to be dealt with, and dealt with seriously. And that’s what the whips will do in our whips’ office.

There was a time when someone could be sacked on the spot for looking at indecent images at work. Granted, this was in the private sector.

I knew of one such individual in the mid-1990s. His dismissal was also shocking, as he was the last person I would have expected to engage in such activity and was a senior manager who was very good at what he did.

However, it seems that such behaviour is becoming normalised, according to The Telegraph. It extends to viewing such things on public transport. Ugh.

Early on Saturday, The Telegraph posted an exclusive interview with Parish:

Suspended from his party and facing public ridicule, Mr Parish is at the centre of a maelstrom. But now that the accusation is “out in the open,” Mr Parish said on Friday night, “it’s almost as if a weight is lifted off me” …

Over the course of the interview, conducted in Mr and Mrs Parish’s sitting room in front of a warm hearth, the MP confirmed he had referred himself to the parliamentary standards committee, apologised to his constituents, and suggested that, even if cleared, he might step down.

It was late on Friday night when The Telegraph called. The couple’s eight-year-old labrador, Kitty, was dozing in front of the fire. Mr Parish, after a long day, was wearing a dressing gown. The MP is a farmer by trade, and the couple’s home is the family farmhouse. Their sitting room is bedecked with books and family photos. It is typical for MPs embroiled in scandal to flee their homes, but the Parishes, who have two adult children and two grandchildren, have stayed put …

Earlier in the day, Mr Parish, 65, said he had opened pornographic material “in error”, but he declined to give further details. Asked what happened, Mr Parish said: “I think it’s all going to have to go through the inquiry, and then I will give them all the evidence I have, and it’ll be for them to make the decision. And then I will make my mind up as to what I do, whether I remain in Parliament or whether I leave.”

He had not spoken to the Prime Minister, he said. Asked if he had a comment for his constituents, Mr Parish said: “That I very much enjoy being their MP, I’ve worked very hard, and I will continue working for them. I apologise for the situation – the whip is withdrawn – but I am still their MP. And at the moment I’m still the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, and I take that job very seriously. And I will carry it on for as long as I have it.”

Mr Parish faces an ignominious end to a 12-year parliamentary career in which he has won increasingly large majorities and worked on a broad set of issues within farming and rural affairs. Local elections are coming up and he is now seen as a liability, with fellow MPs calling for his resignation

Mrs Parish, 66, said she had first learnt of the allegations from a journalist who rang her for comment. “I didn’t know anything about it until he rang and said, ‘Oh, you know what I’m ringing about…’

“I didn’t know who was more embarrassed, actually, me or him!” said Mrs Parish. “Poor chap.”

It seemed that the couple had discussed the matter between them and that it had been explained to Mrs Parish’s satisfaction.

“Yes,” said Mrs Parish, without hesitation.

“My wife is amazingly loyal and better than I deserve,” said Mr Parish.

“That’s for sure,” said Mrs Parish, chuckling.

At the end of the interview, Mr Parish took a phone call from his brother, Rod. They chatted briefly, with Mr Parish thanking his brother for what sounded like a supportive call. Mr Parish, having swapped his dressing gown for a shirt and jacket, then politely assented to having his picture taken …

By Saturday afternoon, Parish had resigned:

People did not believe the tractor excuse …

… but there is good reason to accidentally see something indecent when searching for tractors:

Guido wrote:

Neil Parish has told the BBC he’s quitting after being accused of watching porn on two occasions while performing his MP duties in Parliament. With bizarre detail he claims “the first time was accidental after looking at tractors, but the second time was deliberate”. 

24,239 majority in his seat of Tiverton and Honiton. If this by-election ends up being remotely interesting, the Tories are in deep trouble…

A by-election upset in a similar constituency took place in the staunchly Conservative North Shropshire which now has a Liberal Democrat MP after Owen Paterson was forced to stand down late last year.

On May 1, The Sunday Times confirmed that two female MPs had seen Parish looking at indecent material online:

Parish, 65, said the first time he had watched pornography was accidental, insisting he had been looking at tractors on his mobile phone before straying onto a website with a “very similar name”. He said he watched the video “for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done”.

On the second occasion, however, the married father of two admitted he had looked at porn deliberately while waiting to vote at the side of the chamber. “What I did was absolutely wrong,” he told the BBC.

Parish, who chaired the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, issued a “full apology” to the two female MPs who had seen him watching the pornography, but insisted it was “not my intention to intimidate”.

It marked a significant U-turn in 24 hours. At first he had defied calls to quit and said he would await the findings of a parliamentary investigation. A growing number of Conservative MPs made clear that his position was untenable, however, and that he should resign immediately rather than prolong the controversy days before the local elections on Thursday

His departure means that the Conservatives are now facing the prospect of having to defend two by-elections in short succession.

Imran Ahmad Khan, who was elected MP for Wakefield in 2019, tendered his resignation last week after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Labour is widely expected to win back the seat.

Conservative Party insiders are also braced for a third by-election. They are awaiting the outcome of the investigation into David Warburton, who had the Tory whip withdrawn last month after it was alleged that he sexually harassed three women.

Although Parish’s constituency has returned a Conservative at every election since its creation in 1997 — and the party has a majority of 24,000 — Tory insiders fear that it shares parallels with North Shropshire, the seat lost to the Liberal Democrats in December after the resignation of the disgraced MP Owen Paterson.

Last night a Lib Dem source said: “As we saw in North Shropshire, there is a real backlash against Boris Johnson from rural communities who are fed up with being taken for granted.”

What a shame.

Also on Sunday, The Telegraph confirmed rural communities’ disillusionment with the Conservatives. One woman running for the local council in North Frome, Somerset, says that locals are tearing down her campaign posters and handing leaflets back to her.

The paper refers to these communities and counties as the Blue Wall, historically Conservative areas:

The election is a key test for Boris Johnson, who is facing a difficult mid-term contest after months of criticism of his leadership from Tory quarters over partygate, tax rises and the cost of living crisis.

Many of the English council areas, including Somerset, Hertfordshire and Hampshire, are places the Conservatives have traditionally considered to be strongholds.

Now, they are increasingly thought of as part of the “Blue Wall” – containing millions of wavering Tory voters who are disgruntled with Mr Johnson and could “flip” to Labour or the Liberal Democrats

Voters in Somerset demonstrate what strategists in all parties have identified – that there has been a shift away from the Conservatives among people who live in the countryside.

New research from Parliament’s all-party group for rural business and the “rural powerhouse” suggests the Government has a “chronic under-appreciation for the economic and social potential of the countryside,” and that businesses in rural areas are on average 18 per cent less productive than the country at large.

Many voters who have always lent the Tories their trust feel that southern rural areas have suffered at the expense of “levelling up” – the Government’s plan to improve high streets and fortunes in neglected Northern areas traditionally represented by Labour.

Meanwhile, a Conservative promise to deliver next-generation broadband speed by 2025 is unlikely to be met, the parliamentary spending watchdog has said.

Countryside voters, who are often keen to protect the natural beauty of their homes, say plans to rip up the planning system to build more houses and erect new onshore wind farms are a direct attack on their way of life.

Paul Moody, an antiques dealer who lives near Shepton Mallet, said his faith in the Conservatives’ commitment to the countryside is being challenged by “horrendous” new “T pylons” near his home and the threat of solar panels carpeting the fields.

“They march across the countryside and stand out all across the Somerset Levels” he said.

“I would prefer more nuclear power stations than ruining the countryside.”

Answering a survey conducted for The Telegraph by Redfield and Wilton Strategies this week, just 19 per cent of voters said the Conservatives cared about rural areas, while 28 per cent said Labour did. Almost half of voters (46 per cent) say “levelling up” does not inspire them.

Other national polling shows Labour has increased its lead over the Conservatives by three points since April 12, when Mr Johnson was fined over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

While ministers have repeatedly suggested that the public does not care about partygate and would prefer to see the Government focus on making domestic policy, Tory sources admit privately that the polling shows that idea is “for the birds”.

It’s all falling apart for Boris at the moment.

Ukraine loves Boris

On Tuesday, May 3, Boris made history by becoming the world’s first leader to address Ukraine’s parliament:

Also on Tuesday morning, he gave an interview to Left-leaning Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

It did not go well …

… and not knowing who ITV’s queen of breakfast television, Lorraine Kelly, is unforgiveable. She’s only been on the network for over three decades:

Maybe the man has a point, but it still helps to play to the audience, most of whom probably stay tuned for Lorraine’s show, which follows Good Morning Britain.

It’s a shame that Ukraine’s enthusiasm for Boris doesn’t translate here at the moment, but I cannot blame Conservative voters for being disillusioned.

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